Ohio is celebrating its 212th birthday with special events at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.
Statehouse Holocaust Memorial Unveiling Caps Three-Year Journey
Listen to the Story
Monday’s Holocaust Memorial unveiling at the Ohio Statehouse marks the end of a three year saga from conception to creation. The story includes some controversy and the resignation of a top Statehouse official.
Three years agoÂ Gov. John Kasich insisted that Ohio needed some type of memorial to pay tribute to the victims and liberators.
“We need to have remembrance in this Statehouse,” Kasich saidÂ at the annual Holocaust Commemoration. â€œThat members of our Legislature and members of the public as they pass through this great rotunda will be able to understand not just the history of the times when people wouldnâ€™t stand but the fact that itâ€™s today that we must stand against evil.â€
Those comments set the memorial project in motion. The Capitol Square board which runs the Statehouse created a panel to select a memorial site and artist. However, the boardâ€™s chair, former Republican Senate President Richard Finan, strongly opposed the project.
Finan didnâ€™t believe the Statehouse was the appropriate site for a Holocaust memorial and claimed the governorâ€™s involvement intruded the intended independence of the Capitol Square board.
â€œWhat the governor should have done was come to the board to apply for a memorial and then the memorial would go through a process within the board and be approved or not be approved. He didnâ€™t do that, â€ Finan said last year.
Tensions escalated after Finan asked a Statehouse crew to construct a mock-up of the memorial. Â An 18-foot structure made up of pipes, tarps, and rope stood on the south lawn.
Finan eventually resigned soon after casting the only â€œnoâ€ vote on the Holocaust Memorial plans.
Other groups suggested that the memorial, which includes two tablets displaying the Star of David in the middle, could threaten First Amendment rights.
Joe Sommer is an Ohio board member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation who testified against the structure.
â€œWeâ€™re concerned that the prominent display of the Star of Davidâ€”which is a sacred symbol of the Jewish religionâ€”constitutes an endorsement of a specific and therefore would violate the First Amendment, â€ Sommer said.
Joyce Garver Keller, executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities says the star does not promote any certain religion and stresses the importance of the memorial standing on public grounds.
â€œYes itâ€™s appropriate for government because the Holocaust did not begin with smokestacks and ovens it began in the halls of government where legislation was passed that allowed the expulsion of Jews and others that the Nazis didnâ€™t support.â€
During the unveiling ceremony, Governor Kasich said he hopes the memorial reminds visitors to continue the fight against prejudice and recognize the evil that still exists.