Some believe park bench dedicated to toddler in Elkin was removed because of Bible verse

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ELKIN, N.C. – Several people gathered Saturday to pray in the spot where a park bench dedicated to a baby was recently removed in Elkin.

The bench dedicated to 16-month old Mason Roten was placed near the playground at Elkin Municipal Park last Saturday, but was removed Monday.

Some people believe the bench was removed because it featured a Bible verse and had two crosses engraved on it.

Mason died in September after a hit-and-run car crash.

Pastor Curtis Ponder of Maple Springs Baptist Church in Ronda, N.C. moderated the prayer meeting, according to organizers.

“I just could not believe that they would take something away from my precious little baby like that,” Mason’s mother Heather Roten, recently told FOX8. “He was just a joyful little boy.”

Alumni from Elkin High School got the bench made and placed it in the park.

Ben Crosswhite, an Elkin High alum and family friend, says he got permission from the town’s parks and recreation director, Adam McComb.

When the bench was removed on Monday, Crosswhite said he was told that it was because the bench had a Bible verse and two crosses engraved on it.

“We were just overwhelmed that somebody would memorialize our little baby,” said Chris Leupold, Mason’s grandfather. “Then to have something like this happen, it’s just devastating.”

But Elkin’s town manager, John Holcomb, says alumni never got permission to put the bench in.

He sent this statement to FOX8:

“In Elkin we have an approval process for any bench to be added to our municipal park that is for a public memorial. This bench was added last Saturday without prior knowledge or approval. It was also installed on top of another memorial in the park. The bench was first noticed on Monday morning and was removed due to not being first approved by our recreation and parks director. The bench does have religious  symbols and scripture in its design which no other bench in our park currently has. It is a beautiful bench and we are currently working to find another more suitable location for the bench which is in memory of a young child. Our Town Board will be discussing the matter at its next meeting to be held on December 14th. at 7 pm.”

But Crosswhite says he did get approval.

“They’re pretty much calling us liars, that they didn’t get permission which they did,” Roten said. “That bench should be there in his honor.”