The City of Oakland, California removed a 6 foot high granite monument, “The Ten Commandments” today, July 25th, 2012. A written demand to remove the monument from the City Zoo property was sent to the Oakland Mayor and City Officials by Joey Piscitelli, on behalf of numerous secular groups, on May 29th.
A protest and media event was scheduled for this coming Sunday, July 29th, and a massive demonstration was pending. Several dozen participants from the East Bay Atheists, and American Atheists Inc, were ready to picket the Zoo at 1 P.M. on Sunday. The Oakland Zoo officials released a statement Wednesday saying that “the activists had nothing to do with the decision to remove the Ten Commandments.”
But activists claim that the Citys’ statement is “obviously false”, and that the decision to remove the Christian symbol was based on the complaints, further pending public protests, and the repeated demand for the removal.
Piscitelli had originally sent a letter in 2008, asking the City to remove the Ten Commandments monument, which was placed in the landscaping in front of the “Snow Building” event center, on public Oakland Zoo property. The City did not respond to the first complaint. A second letter was sent to the City last month, and this time Piscitelli forwarded the letter to all City councilmen, representatives, and the City attorneys.
The granite symbol was perched on a garden slope, overlooking the bay and horizon, and it partially blocked the view of the SF Bay, and background horizon. The monument was placed on the property by the Zoo in 1965, after it was donated to the Zoo by the Fraternal Order of the Eagles. The Fraternal Order of Eagles embarked on a campaign to place religious symbolic dogma on public properties in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. Several thousand of the Ten Commandment monuments were allowed to be placed on public properties throughout the USA, and those monuments have been the instigator of numerous protests and lawsuits throughout the country, many of which are still pending today.
Recent lawsuit and appeals court decisions on the matter of the removal of the same Ten Commandment monuments have resulted in different outcomes. In Texas, the monument was allowed to stay, in Kentucky, the court ordered the monument to be removed.
In a letter to Joey Piscitelli from the City of Oakland Attorney in June, the City had stated that the monument was legal and constitutional, according to the Supreme Court decision concerning the similar monument placed on the Texas property. Piscitelli argued that the Texas monument stood with several other placards and monuments, but the Oakland monument stood alone.
The East Bay Atheists stated that “the decision to remove the monument was a fair and wise decision”, and that “the City of Oakland is a diverse community which should respect the equality and beliefs of all citizens”. The group claims a victory for 1st Amendment rights, and a victory for freethinkers.