A Tennessee firefighter has removed a memorial to the fallen heroes of 9-11 from the lawn outside a local firehouse because the city government forced him to remove the word “God” from the three-word tribute on the display: “God Bless America.”

Capt. Bob Decker of Rutherford County, Tenn., had erected a replica of the Twin Towers in memory of his fellow firefighters who died on Sept. 11, 2001.

“When the frenzy started and the uproar started and things started getting ugly and negative, I decided to just take it down,” Decker told WKRN-TV in Nashville.

When the city made its decree, Decker first lightly painted over the word “God,” but he eventually took down the display and rebuilt it on his own front lawn.

9-11 memorial at firehouse
(Courtesy WKRN-TV)

“No one from city administration had approved of the original display,” Murfreesboro City Manager Roger Haley told The Daily News Journal. “When I saw what was there, I asked that the language be modified to be more in keeping with what we would expect on a display like that on public property.”

Many members of the public are livid about the turn of events.

“If we have freedom of speech, which this country is built upon, then why can’t he say, you know, ‘In God We Trust’?” asked Murfreesboro resident Bobbie Palmer.

“Some people feel that excluding the name of God was offensive to them, and being a believer in God, it was offensive to me,” Dwight Ogleton, a firefighter, told The Associated Press.

Yet some feel the city’s action likely saved taxpayers money by not having to defend a possible lawsuit.

“Everybody knows about the controversy that we’ve had in Rutherford County over the Ten Commandments. And there’s been lawsuits filed, and the outcome of that is still pending,” said attorney Tony Maples, according to WKRN-TV.

Decker, who had hoped simply to do something to honor Sept. 11 victims, regrets the controversy.

He says he has no hard feelings toward the city and is inviting everyone in town to pass by his home to see the memorial on his property.

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