Tega Cay removes controversial monument offering prayer for officers

TEGA CAY, S.C. — A monument placed outside of a new police department in Tega Cay has been removed after causing an uproar.

It contains a prayer often called “The Officer's Prayer,” which was edited by city leaders because some were offended by the word "Lord," Channel 9 reported on Monday.

"At this time, we have removed the monument while we continue to seek a solution that expresses our unwavering support and gratitude to those who risk their lives every day for ours," the city of Tega Cay posted the next day on social media.

The Women's Club of Tega Cay donated the 4-foot stone for the city's new police department. It contains the prayer and is part of a memorial to fallen officers.

Days after it was placed there, complaints started after the monument appeared on Facebook.

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"We started getting a lot of negative backlash, and they started reaching out to council members,” City Manager Charles Funderburk said. “It wasn't just one person."

He said there was no ill intent.

“We weren't trying to favor one religion or one person over another," Funderburk said.

The monument stood on city property and, to some, that violates the separation of church and state.

The city plastered over the word "Lord" every place it appears after getting legal advice about a potentially expensive lawsuit and meeting with city council members.

“Lord” is written three times on the monument, which got the attention of U.S Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, who posted his own video criticizing the changes.

"To have that scratched out is sad, to say the least," Norman said. "That should never have happened."

Some said removing a word to avoid a costly legal battle makes sense.

"I can see it both ways, but I don't know. At the police station, I think it's fine, but I understand them making the change," Debbie Guibalt said.

Full statement from Tega Cay:

"We have received many comments, both locally and nationally, in response to the monument at the Tega Cay Police Station. We attempted to find a compromise but failed as our community has further divided. In an attempt to find a resolution, we have upset parties on both sides of this issue and for that, we are truly sorry. The City of Tega Cay's intent from the beginning of this project was to recognize our current and fallen police officers. Without their courage, strength, dedication, concern and compassion, as mentioned in the police officer's prayer inscribed on the monument, our City would be a much different place.

"At this time, we have removed the monument while we continue to seek a solution that expresses our unwavering support and gratitude to those who risk their lives every day for ours. We will continue to welcome feedback from our residents and seek further guidance from our legal team until we can find a viable solution for all concerned.

"To the police officers, firefighters, and other first responders, we thank you for your service and keeping our community safe.

"We appreciate you taking the time to provide us with your input. Regardless of our different viewpoints, our people are the greatest assets of our community and what truly makes this City such a wonderful place to live the good life in Tega Cay."

Another monument outside of the fire department has sat quietly for two years with no firestorm around it.

Last week, the city tried to remove the word "God" from it to avoid another controversy in the future.

Either way, city leaders know they're going hear it from citizens.

"There's just as many people that are upset now that it's been removed as there were when it was put there in the first place, so it's kind of a lose-lose," Funderburk said.

The prayer that caused the controversy is on the backside of the monument. It was not visible from Tega Cay Drive and you'd have to park your car at the police department and walk up to it to read it.

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