Saturday, October 23, 2004
On this day:

Christians and "Godless Yankees" in Altercation over Roy's Rock in D.C.: American Indian Brokers Peace

"Roy's Rock" made it to the National Mall in Washington this weekend, and a group of atheist rabble-rousers from Pennsylvania weren't happy about it.
On Friday morning...there was a tense debate between a group of atheists from Pennsylvania and the Christians who came to pay their respects to the sculpture. The situation was initially defused by Native Americans in authentic dress who brokered a brief peace, but the U.S. Park Police eventually escorted the atheists to the other side of Madison Drive, where they held signs calling
for the separation of church and state.

"We can stand here and make fun of your rock," said Lorie Polansky of Altoona, Pa. Jim Cabaniss of Texas, one of the organizers of the tour, was unfazed by the commotion.

"Veterans fought for their right to do that," said Cabaniss, whose group, American Veterans in Domestic Defense, contracted with Moore to take the monument across the country. "We don't have any problem with it."

...John Hetherington rolled up on in-line skates, climbed the stairs on the back of the truck - which was parked in front of the Museum of Natural History, behind a long line of portable bathrooms set up for the rally - and filmed the monument up close. He's working on a documentary about his life as a survivor of an attempted abortion.

"What struck me is that veterans risked their lives to keep this country and this world free and now they're making a statement about what this country was founded on," said Hetherington, a Canadian citizen.

Anita and Rick Moreau traveled from Newport, N.C., for the "America for Jesus" rally but had heard the Ten Commandments monument would be on display.

"I'm just glad it's out of the closet," Anita Moreau said. "We're way too close to the end times to play around..."

As the nearby rally grew in strength and volume, the crowd around the flatbed truck also grew. At one point, a war veteran and Native American from Oregon named Marshall Tall Eagle approached the atheist protesters. Learning that two of them also were veterans, Tall Eagle summoned an assistant to bring two "Warriors' Medal of Valor," and he hung them around their necks.

"We don't agree with your beliefs but we respect your service," said Lauretta Serna, Tall Eagle's wife and a descendant of the Shoshone tribe.

Chris Davis, an atheist and veteran from Pennsylvania, said, "Just remember, there are atheists who served, too."

Later, Davis said he would have liked to have seen Moore himself, but the former judge wasn't there.

"I came to see the blockhead who put this rock up," Davis said. "I wanted to remind him that we're godless Yankees in this part of the country and we want to keep it that way."

America...what a country!