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Shooting Down the Eagles: Another Battle Over Ten Commandments Monuments

Lost in the excitement over the Judge Moore's Ten Commandments case, the Fraternal Order of Eagles has come under attack all over the country — not just by anti-Christian pressure groups and activist judges, but from vandals, too.

Lee Duigon
  • Lee Duigon,
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Judge Roy Moore isn’t the only one suffering for his devotion to the Ten Commandments.

Lost in the excitement over the Moore case, the Fraternal Order of Eagles has come under attack all over the country — not just by anti-Christian pressure groups and activist judges, but from vandals, too.

In the thick of it is Francis Manion, an attorney with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) in Washington, D.C. Manion is defending local Eagles “eyries” (chapters) against ten lawsuits in several states, all aimed at forcing the Eagles to remove their Ten Commandments monuments. And the ACLJ is co-defending ten more suits in other states.

“These monuments have been around for decades,” Manion said. “Now, all of a sudden, they’re unconstitutional. Or so we’re asked to believe. But that’s the nature of America’s current legal culture — virulently anti-Christian.”

“Youth Guidance”

The Eagles, a nationwide fraternal organization (like the Elks, Odd Fellows, etc.) with hundreds of local chapters, has been sued by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and anti-Christian individual plaintiffs. At the same time, several of their Ten Commandments monuments have been destroyed or damaged by vandals. (Not one of these incidents has been prosecuted as a hate crime. “That might be a good idea,” Manion said.)

In the early 1950s, the Eagles launched a “national youth guidance project,” which came to consist of donating Ten Commandments displays to towns and cities.

“It was done by the local chapters, with no direction from Eagles national headquarters, and nobody keeping count,” Manion said. “They put up hundreds of these little monuments nationwide. Some estimate thousands. Nobody counted them.

“It’s very ‘Americana,’ very typical of the fifties. A Norman Rockwell scene. The school band comes out, the mayor makes a little speech, and there’s the new monument on the village green.

“I think that’s a part of what fuels the opposition. They want to extirpate all this from our culture. Why, I can’t imagine.”

Crossed-up in La Crosse

So the Eagles, for decades, went about their civic project unmolested, hoping to uplift moral awareness among America’s young people.

That changed twenty years ago.

“The case we’re defending in La Crosse, Wisconsin, is typical of what we’re up against,” Manion said.

The Eagles erected a monument there in 1965 in a city park. Twenty years later, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued to have it removed, but lost the case on a technicality.

To avoid future lawsuits, the city gave the monument back to the Eagles and sold them the small piece of the park — 440 square feet — around it. The Eagles paid fair market value for the property and took ownership.

In 2001 the ACLU won a suit in Elkhart, Indiana, to remove a religious monument. Inspired by that example, the FFRF in La Crosse decided to try again.

“To ‘protect’ people from the monument,” Manion said, “the Eagles put a fence around it, the city put another fence around it, and they both put up warning signs. It didn’t help. FFRF rounded up 22 plaintiffs and filed another suit.

“Some of the testimony in this suit is hard to take seriously. In this kind of case, you have to show you’ve been injured by the defendant’s actions. So they claimed ‘psychic injury.’ One guy claimed he lost 60 nights of sleep, just knowing the monument was there. He needs a doctor, not a lawyer.”

Although the Eagles and ACLJ cited precedent supporting their case, the district court judge ruled against them.

“The judge ignored the precedent,” Manion said. “She said the town, by selling the property to the Eagles, ‘showed a preference for religion.’”

ACLJ has appealed to the federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Chicago, and Manion is preparing to retry the case. This is in addition to the similar cases he’s trying in Maryland, Nebraska, and Utah.

“It should be an easy case for us to win,” he said, “but these days you never know with judges.”

Vandals on the Loose

Meanwhile the Eagles’ Ten Commandments monuments have been vandalized in several states. Manion recalled a recent incident in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Unidentified vandals totally destroyed a monument on the state capitol grounds. The state decided to replace it. Hoping to avoid a lawsuit, the authorities ordered a monument that would display the Bill of Rights and other secular, historical milestones along with the Ten Commandments.

“They sued us anyhow,” Manion said. “And guess who brought the lawsuit — the vandal who destroyed the original monument! He came forward, filed the suit, and won. The new monument never went up, and he had to pay a fine for destroying the old one.”

Vandals spray-painted a monument in South Bend, Indiana. They knocked down a monument in Plattsmouth, Nebraska, after a lawsuit was filed against it.

Manion did not attribute the vandalism to ideological motivations, but did see a link between the lawsuits and the vandalism.

“Most of the monuments have been there so long that people no longer notice them,” he said. “But when there’s a lawsuit, and it gets to be in the news, some local jerk says, ‘Yeah, let’s wreck that monument; that’ll be fun.’”


The ACLJ and other Christian legal foundations are holding the fort on this and many other important issues. It’s surprising how many cases they actually win. However, it seems that for every case they win, the Left files two more suits. They are intent on attempting to wipe out every public trace of America’s Christian heritage.

As judicial terrorists continue to remove Ten Commandments monuments from the public square, the “Constitution Restoration Act” bill is before both houses of Congress (see Meanwhile, as has been suggested in “Proclaiming Deliverance from the ACLU” (see and by others, it would help a lot if a few million of us displayed the Ten Commandments on our own.

Lee Duigon
  • Lee Duigon

Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.

Lee has his own blog at

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