LINCOLN, Neb. — When Patrick Reese of Lincoln, Neb., decided to raise money to have a Ten Commandments monument put up at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ here, he wasn’t setting out to start a trend. But that’s what happened.
Since the Eagle Scout’s project was approved as a possible Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project, it has been adopted by several other Eagle Scouts. In fact, eight other Eagle Scouts across the country have erected monuments or are in the process of raising the money to do so.
Reese inspired then 15-year-old Stephen Biga of Fair Haven, N.J., who was responsible for erecting the first Ten Commandments monument in the state of New Jersey in 2007. Biga chose to have one placed at the Church of the Nativity to earn his Eagle Scout certification.
Biga got the idea from his father, Tom, who had shared with his son an article on the monuments that appeared in the Knights of Columbus’ magazine, Columbia.
“The events forming our world today have led me to believe that now is the time to reinforce our core Judeo-Christian beliefs,” Biga told parishioners when he was trying to raise the $5,000 necessary for the monument in November 2006. “Better understanding of our peaceful message can only bring about good things.”
Biga imagined it would take months to raise the money. Instead, he raised double what he needed in seven weeks.
With the additional money and in-kind donations from landscaping, construction, monument, electrical and lawn care companies, Biga was able to provide beautiful landscaping, lawn sprinklers, lighting and shrubs for the project, as well.
“It is he who calls himself ‘I Am’ and gave his servant Moses his holy Law on Mount Sinai,” said Father Bob Schecker during the blessing of the monument. “We come together to dedicate this monument to that great event, when God established his Law before Israel.”
Project Moses’ Genesis
Project Moses is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Omaha, Neb., that helps people learn more about the Ten Commandments. It also provides personal plaques for people’s homes, larger monuments for public display, where they cannot be removed, and is working toward having a national monument placed in Washington, D.C.
Project Moses was founded by Overland Park, Kan., businessman John Menghini in 2000 after he watched a news story about a Catholic parish that gave a Ten Commandments monument a new home after the American Civil Liberties Union successfully had it removed from the Kansas City, Kan., courthouse lawn.
In October 2003, Menghini met with Pope John Paul II, who gave a papal blessing to Project Moses. In January 2004, Joe Worthing was hired as executive director and immediately began the process of involving the Knights of Columbus when working with Catholic sites.
Project Moses’ goal is to have Ten Commandments monuments placed on as many church and religious school lawns as possible.
As of November 2009, 460 monuments have been erected in 42 states and the province of Saskatchewan. Between 85% and 90% have been placed on Catholic property. Project Moses has also been busy placing more than 24,000 travertine marble Ten Commandments plaques in homes, while helping other nonprofits raise more than $100,000 via a faith-based program it developed.
Since April 2004, starting in Wyoming, where 100% of the Catholic churches are now displaying a monument, Worthing has spoken at more than 20 Knights of Columbus state meetings. The Knights have embraced and supported the project. A majority of the monuments have been erected with help from local Knights’ councils.
“The Knights have been bringing the project to the people, and they’re saying that they’ve never seen anything like this,” said Worthing, a third-degree Knight. “People who don’t normally give are giving, and several families are asking to fund a monument in honor of a loved one. People are saying, ‘Thank you for giving us a chance to stand for God’s laws.’ It wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for the Knights’ leadership.”
Through the support of the Knights, $33,000 was raised in a single weekend in Greeley, Colo., making it possible to purchase and install three Ten Commandments monuments at three different churches.
The stone monuments, which cost between $5,000 and $5,500 for the monument and shipping, are 64 inches tall and weigh up to 900 pounds. The Commandments are etched on the front, the beatitudes on the back. On the base of the monument is Christ’s commandment to love God and neighbor.
While the story of the past 30 years has been the attack on the Ten Commandments in courtrooms, Worthing noted that far more Ten Commandments monuments are being erected in prominent places on private property for public viewing than have been removed from public property.
“This battle isn’t about getting back at the ACLU, as much fun as that is, but putting people in regular contact with the Commandments,” said Worthing. “People come up in front of the antithesis of the Commandments every day.”
“Many haven’t seen the Commandments since they were studying for first Communion,” he said. “The Commandments take up 100 pages in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, yet people don’t know them.”
The example of Reese and Biga has inspired others, such as Rory Davis in Grand Island, Neb.; Mitchell Kittle in Lincoln Park, Mich.; Brian Hoggatt in Lincoln, Neb.; Gregory Florence in Auburn, Neb.; Tyler Budke in McCook, Neb., and Kyle Rall in Leawood, Kan.
The most recent Boy Scout to take on the project is 15-year-old high school freshman and prospective Eagle Scout Anthony Peppers of MacDonaugh, Ga. Peppers decided to erect a monument after a Knight of Columbus from St. James the Apostle, his parish, suggested it as a possible Eagle Scout project.
“There are many worthy causes,” said Peppers. “I felt that this was important because these are the only words God wrote with his own finger. I felt that if he did that, it must be very important, and that this was the best project I could do.”
Peppers started fundraising three weeks ago. The priest at St. James made the announcement following every Mass. In just three weeks, Peppers has raised the $4,500 necessary for the monument.
“A lot of people felt strongly that it should be on the grounds so that anyone can see them,” said Peppers. “I was kind of shocked.”
There’s still work to be done. Peppers has to have a cement base poured, transplant a tree, and plans to install a walkway. Because the land in front of the church is government-owned, the monument will be installed behind the church.
Peppers is planning to contact FedEx and some local construction stores for additional help with the project.
He’s hoping to have the entire project finished before Easter.
Once it’s completed, it will be the second Ten Commandments monument in the state of Georgia.
Tim Drake is based in
St. Joseph, Minnesota.