Court upholds Confederate monument removal

A state appeals court Wednesday upheld a decision by the rural North Florida town of Madison to remove a Confederate monument from a park.

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A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected a series of arguments challenging the removal of the monument, which was erected in 1909 to honor Confederate soldiers.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit included eight people whose ancestors were commemorated on a plaque on the monument, according to the ruling. Other plaintiffs were the Florida Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Save Southern Heritage, Inc.-Florida Chapter.

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Wednesday’s 12-page decision upheld a ruling by a Madison County circuit judge. The plaintiffs argued, in part, that removing the monument would violate rights of free speech and free expression of religion.

But appeals-court Judge Scott Makar, in a decision joined by Judges Ross Bilbrey and Susan Kelsey, said the circuit judge properly dismissed the argument.

“The asserted interest at stake in this case is the plaintiffs’ claim that their free speech and religious freedom rights will be violated post-removal; but, in reality, nothing prevents them from gathering, speaking, and commemorating their ancestors at the park after the monument is gone,” Makar wrote. “It is true that the plaintiffs will have displeasure and sadness because a governmentally controlled structure that they venerate will be gone; the legal question that courts have uniformly answered in the negative, however, is whether this type of psychological/emotional harm from removal or relocation of such monuments is actionable.”