CHEYENNE, Wyo. – The city has drafted a resolution to remove its Ten Commandments monument from a public park in hopes of keeping an anti-gay preacher from erecting a monument condemning slain college student Matthew Shepard.
The resolution, to be considered by the City Council on Monday, proposes moving the monument to a historic plaza, much like the city of Casper proposed doing.
Unlike Casper, Cheyenne’s plaza already exists and displays the Bill of Rights and preamble to the Constitution on land between the City Building and the Cox Parking Garage.
Casper has proposed creating a similar plaza next year.
Both cities are responding to letters from the Rev. Fred Phelps, of the Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church., asking to erect his own monument in the parks saying Shepard is in hell because he was gay.
Shepard died in 1998, five days after he was beaten into a coma by two Laramie men who were later convicted and sent to prison for life.
Phelps claims displaying a Ten Commandments monument forces a city to allow other religious displays as well, including his own. He has threatened litigation in both communities if he doesn’t get his way, and is now proposing putting his monument in Casper’s historic plaza.
Phelps said the proposed resolution in Cheyenne is a ploy to ensure his monument is not erected in Lions Park and to keep the Ten Commandments on public display.
“If you have one message up in a city-run facility, you have to put up others,” he said. “This is too little, too late.”
Plans for historic plazas are based on one implemented in Grand Junction, Colo., which withstood a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union in 2001.
However, civil liberties groups say that case, filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, does not apply to Wyoming.
It also does not override a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last year requiring any city displaying a Ten Command-ments monument on city property to also allow monuments of other religious or political groups, they say.