City of Oakland, California - Displays Ten Commandments at Public Property Zoo

   I sent a Letter of Demand to the City of Oakland to remove this monument.

Demand to City of Oakland re: 10 Commandments

Letter to City of Oakland Demanding Removal of 10 Commandments From Zoo

May 26th, 2012

Joey Piscitelli

Martinez, Ca. 94553

City of Oakland and

Mayor Jean Quan

1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza

Oakland, Ca. 94612

Oakland Zoo, and

East Bay Zoological Society

9777 Golf Links Road

Oakland, Ca. 94605

RE: Violation of 1st Amendment “Separation of Church and State”

Dear City of Oakland, Mayor Jean Quan, Oakland Zoo,

    My name is Joey Piscitelli, and I am a supporter of the Oakland Zoo, and have attended several events at the zoo, including weddings and other occasions at the “Snow Building”, located on the Zoo property; which you authoritatively rent out to the public as an event center.

    I am also a supporter of 1st Amendment rights, freedom of religious choice, and equality. To my shock, I was very disappointed to see that the City of Oakland displays a very large monument at the Snow Building entitled: “The Ten Commandments”. This monument is categorically a Christian symbol; and a blatant pronouncement of adherence to the Bible and the belief in the Christian God.

   This doctrine is certified by the first phrase carved onto the monument which states:

I am the Lord thy God” in large bold letters.

The second phrase states that:

Thou shalt not have any other Gods before me”.

     These are not ambiguous or generic phrases venerating a broad scope of deities, collectively known or shared as a universal “God”, but rather they are in fact very specific literal religious commands by the monument and its placement; to set forth the obedience to its Christian content chosen by its donor. 

    I believe the donor of this monument willfully and expressly intended to proselytize the Christian doctrine, and to solidify their conviction that the Christian religion and its God, and the Bible are the authoritative religion in the USA; as evidenced by their very clear statements on the donors website.

     The Fraternal Order of Eagles, who “donated” this monument created in 1965 which exists at the Zoo now -  make no secret about their boasting of their accomplished successful placement of the Ten Commandments on “public” properties throughout the USA.

     This intent and conduct denigrates the views and beliefs of countless opposing citizens; and allows special treatment to only Christian doctrine – irrespective of equal opportunity.

     If in fact, this was merely an act of equal free speech, then why is this particular religious  monument the only opinionated non-secular monument displayed on Oakland Zoo public property?

No other representations of other beliefs are visibly posted anywhere at all on the massive acreage referred to as the “Oakland Zoo”.

    I am aware that different states have had different Supreme Court decisions handed down concerning the posting of the Ten Commandments on public properties. One of the weakest arguments for the posting is that : “no one has complained about it's placement in (37) years.” (Which may not be proven as factual.)

This argument does not dissuade the problem of specific religious endorsement by public entities -  it exasperates it.

    Echoing the words of  the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln: “four score and   seven years ago” (87 years) -  slavery was in existence in defiance of the constitutional equality of all men for nearly 100 years; before legal intervention proceeded to finally correct it. Thus, the mere passage of time that elapses before a constitutional violation is corrected, is not an excuse for its continued debasement.

   Another argument used by the donors of Christian doctrine monuments placed intentionally upon public properties is that : retroactively, when considering the date the monument was placed, it was a reflection of a “part of the history of the property”, and therefore it should remain as an object of historical significance.

     In opposition to that opinion, I state that signs were posted that “Negroes” were not allowed in establishments in many southern states for decades, and that was unarguably “part of their southern history”.

   But we do not honor and continue to endorse those prejudicial proclamations -  simply because they were “part of the history”of the south. Additionally, and to the point – those placards were eventually removed because they breached mandated federal law.

    Your neighboring City of Concord, allowed the verbiage “No Negroes allowed” to live in certain residential developments in the 1950's; and this is part of the that Citys history. This is also a constitutional violation that was struck down and rightfully removed; and one can not argue that it should remain posted “because it is part of the history of the city”.

    The existence of the rationalization of an incorrect violation of separation of church and state; by the proclamation that the monument is “historical”, is deceivingly circumventing the true intent of the monument- which is decisively clear. One merely has to literally read the first four commandments to realize this.

    Another argument used by the donors of these monuments is that: “no one else bothered to place any other monuments on the site for 40 years, and now they complain”.

    This is also a redundant argument - as we can all probably agree that if an atheist or Pagan had placed their symbol of belief on this public property in 1965; they would have surely been denied permission.

    This year is 2012, and non-Christian believers would probably still be denied access to post any symbols on most, if not all -  public properties that contain the said Christian monuments.

     I am appalled at the imbalance of justice and the inequality displayed by the City of Oakland for favoring and condoning only this Christian monument on this public property; as it is insulting to the constitutional choice and lifestyle of alternative beliefs of any other citizens who are not adherents to Christianity and its Bible.

    I do not have an objection to Christian churches and supporters  placing their dogmatic objects of faith on private property; in fact I view it as constitutionally commendable.

   However, the endorsement by the City of Oakland for this same dogma on public property is a substantiation of inimical favoritism.

    Oakland is a very diverse and ethnically inspired city. I am sure that many people who frequent this zoo are unaware of this biased monument pronouncing the favoritism of Christian doctrine that dominates the western skyline; an antithetical testament that is demeaning to the citys expressed goals.

    Ironically, the first posted sign that one observes when they enter the public property of the zoo is a sign that states: “It's your zoo”. 

   Is it?  Would John Q. Public presume that it may be – as long as the public adheres to the Christian posted  ten commandments? If it is in fact our zoo, then we should have a voice when constitutional equality is compromised.

     My daughter was married at the Snow building, and unfortunately, we did not go to the left side of the building overlooking the western horizon and bay, when we viewed the building before we rented it.

    The day of the wedding, we went outside to view the sunset, and to take pictures, and there to our surprise – we viewed this giant monument, demanding obedience to the Christian faith and their God.

     Many of our guests were shocked, and we were speechless and offended.

There was no warning to us by the officials at the Oakland public office of administration where we paid our money - that we were subject to the laws of the “Ten Commandments” at our own daughters wedding.

      If the City of Oakland  had disclosed beforehand that they endorse the Ten Commandments at the public site of the Snow Building; there is absolutely no doubt that I would not have been supportive of this unconstitutional behavior.

    In conclusion, I/we demand the City of Oakland amicably correct this violation of the Constitution; by removing this prejudicial monument - and that the city conduct itself as a advocate for equality and freedom of choice. At the Oakland Zoo, apparently we are not given freedom of religious choice; as witnessed by the words carved in this  granite monument commanding us to obey; but surely this injustice can be corrected.

I await your timely response,


Joey Piscitelli – A citizen who believes in equality, and freedom of choice


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Replies to This Discussion

wow they're hurting.. a zoo?
really!? why are religions the only ones that get to commit all this civil disobedience? I mean it's such a dishonor to people.

       The "Christian Right" claims that they have the right to freedom of speech and religion. That is correct. I agree that they do. However, many christians  do not want other beliefs to be allowed the same right. They then claim that "this is a christian nation" and if they post only christian monuments on public property, when no one else is granted the same rights - that others should turn their head, and leave the city, or country, or the public site.

      I pass up dozens of churches everyday, all over the city, and they display various signs and symbols, and I take it for granted, and it is their right. It doesn't bother me.

But I do not expect that on public property, especially when no one else is allowed a voice, or an opinion. The argument here is that the city condones ONLY christian doctrine at a public event center.

this may be nit picking, but the 10 Commandments isn't just a Christian thing - the Jews adhere to it as well.  your letter, while excellent, comes off a little like Christian bashing.  by excluding Judaism from your argument it weakens the message a little bit, IMO. 

    I agree with you, it is percieved that way by the christian right. But the people who back the placement of the monument are christians, not Jews. The intent of those who favor it's staying are the activists for christianity, and not the Jewish. I know it's a "judeo-christian" monument. I also know that the only backlash that I have seen was from christian fundamentalists, and christian right groups, I have not heard from the jewish groups.

   That is why I did not include jewish. When following the legal battles concerning this same monument throughout the USA, I do not see any jewish groups up in arms taking a stand that "Jesus is god" - and that the monument represents the founding fathers wishes, etc.

    I am not jewish, but I can honestly say that I think that most jews I know do not agree with the argument that only the ten commandments should be allowed to stay on public properties. My take is that the jewish people I know give the issue a bit more thought and consideration as  to the validity of the placement of the 10 comandos, and the establishment clause itself.

    The thing that is the most absurd argument is : that if something was done 50 years ago, it is "grandfathered in". According to this debased logic, then women who weren't allowed to vote for over 100 years in this country, shouldn't have been allowed to vote because it was grandfathered in.  And since no women spoke up for the right to vote for at least a hundred years, then they can not speak up now. ???

According to some of our hypocritical lawmakers, who state that "no one said or did anything for 50 years" about the ten commandments being posted on public properties, then "the monuments are constitutional."

So that would apply to gay rights too? No gay rights groups said anything for 200 years, so then gay activists should not have a voice?

Shame on our illogical lawmakers who live in the antiquated bigotry of the past.


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