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UPDATE: Sterling cemetery 'Jesus' controversy

8:48 PM, Oct 18, 2013   |    comments
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UPDATE: The City of Sterling sent 9NEWS a release Friday. The city says the family wanted an ichthys (fish-like symbol) and the word "Jesus" inscribed inside the symbol. The family was advised by city employees of a long-standing cemetery policy "which allows symbols or text, but not text within symbols or niche covers."

The family contacted the city manager about the incident. The city manager then provided 9NEWS with information "relying solely upon the reported family information."

The city implies that the ordeal resulted from a misunderstanding, and at no time did the cemetery ban the use of the word "Jesus" or any other religious symbol or word.

Read: City of Sterling release

STERLING - City leaders are backtracking after the family of a pastor's wife was told her cemetery marker could not include the word "Jesus" because some might find it offensive.

Faith and family were inextricably linked for Linda Baker. The late woman's husband, Mark, is the pastor of Harvest Baptist Church in Ovid.

Her family intended to recognize her faith and honor her wishes by engraving her cemetery marker with the word Jesus surrounded by the ichthys, the fish-like symbol of early Christianity.

The fish is fine, the manager of the city-owned cemetery said, but no Jesus.

"They felt that the name Jesus would be offensive to some," said Stacy Adams, Linda's daughter-in-law.

A ban on a religious reference? In a cemetery?

"There are full scriptures everyone you look," Adams said. "You can't walk two feet without tripping over them."

The cemetery manager, Shawn Rewoldt, was in error, according to Sterling city manager Joe Kiolbasa.

"This gentleman thought it may have been objectionable to someone because of the Christian connotation," Kiolbasa said. "It will be allowed in the future."

Kiolbasa said the city will not censor any future religious references on headstones and cemetery markers.

"That has been corrected," Kiolbasa said.

Baker's family insists the city manager originally supported the cemetery manager's decision and only relented after they initiated public pressure through a series of Facebook posts.

"I'm sorry that it took this to do it. But I hope it sends a message," Adams said. "In their misguided attempt to offend no one, they ended up offending many."

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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