Removal of the word “Lord” from a gift to Tega Cay Police Department has set off a firestorm on social media. The painted over word wasn’t done by vandals.
City officials received complaints about the religious part of the inscription, said Lt. James Parker of the Tega Cay Police Department. City officials discussed the inscription in a council meeting and the decision was made to take the religious inscriptions off both sides, Parker said.
Tega Cay Police Chief Steve Parker referred all other questions to Tega Cay city government officials.
City officials say complaints started with an email to the mayor from Tega Cay resident Dann Dunn, who spoke out against the monument wording at the July 15 Tega Cay City Council meeting. Dunn told Council he isn’t offended by religious references and is a church-goer.
“What I do have a problem with is religious references on government property, especially law enforcement,” Dunn said. “Public grounds and public services should remain secular and neutral for all members of the community -- all members -- so they should feel welcome here.”
The monument with religious references makes the city seem exclusionary and bias, Dunn said.
On the city Facebook post July 12 about the monument installation, comments voice both in favor and against the religious reference.
Council didn’t take an official vote, but members spoke with the police department and decided to take out the wording.
“We talked to our attorney about it and he said they’re probably going to sue you,” said Mayor David O’Neal, also a campaign leader for U.S. Congressman Ralph Norman in past runs. “He said we’d have to hire a lawyer and it might cost $30,000 to $50,000 to fight it, or you can just move the offensive language.”
City Manager Charlie Funderburk said the monument was delivered and installed July 12 as part of the Fallen Officer Memorial at the new police station. A Scout working on his Eagle rank installed it. He didn’t have anything to do with the wording.
“On the front of the monument was text that read, ‘Matthew 5:9,’ which is often referred to as the Law Enforcement or Peace Keepers verse,” Funderburk said. “On the back of the monument is the Policeman’s Prayer. In the prayer, the word ‘Lord’ appears three times.”
Funderburk emphasized there was no vandalism. Ideas for the design, he said, came from the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“There was never an intent to offend anyone and show preference to one group over another,” Funderburk said. “The city of Tega Cay and the Tega Cay Police Department do not hold any religion or person in a higher regard than another. We respect and care for all citizens, regardless of what their faith may or may not be.”
Norman posted a Facebook video July 20 after a breakfast with Tega Cay and Fort Mill police departments standing in front of the memorial stone. He said “look what’s being marked out, the word “Lord.”
“Our creator gave us our God-given rights. The last time I checked it was one nation under God. To have this scratched out is sad, to say the least. That’s why we’re fighting in Washington, D.C., to put God back in public buildings like this, put God back in our schools. This is sad and never should happen,” Norman said.
S.C. State Rep. Bruce Bryant, R-York, was outraged the Biblical verse was removed. Bryant retired as York County Sheriff in 2017 after 20 years in office and 44 years in law enforcement.
“To say I am disappointed is an understatement,” Bryant said. “Law enforcement is a calling, a calling for men and women by God to protect the communities they serve. These principles of courage and faith are what this great state and nation were founded upon.”
Bryant said the scripture is meant to show the unity of spirit and faith that the public has with police officers. There are scriptures and references to God on police memorials all over America, Bryant said.
“There would not be a need for law enforcement officers if the Ten Commandments were followed,” Bryant said. “But they are not. That’s where police officers, the bravest and most courageous, come in. To help their fellow man under God.”
O’Neal said fighting the issue isn’t worth it when there are other uses for city money such as the all-inclusive park.
“It’s not a Tega Cay city monument,” O’Neal said. “It’s a gift. It’s just not worth it.”
The stone sites near the entrance to the police station.
“The monument is still in place and still very beautiful,” Funderburk said.
This is a developing story. Check back for more details.