12 INVESTIGATES: Gravestone controversy comments

GLOUCESTER, VA (WWBT) - - It's a story that got you talking - a gravestone controversy in Gloucester. A church is suing a family over a picture of a liquor bottle on a man's final resting place.

People have been commenting on this story on our website and facebook page for two days now.

We conducted a poll asking people if they thought the soles family should have to remove the liquor bottle from their father's gravestone.

Only 13 percent of those who voted said yes. 87 percent of people in our poll sided with the family.

Wilmer Frank Soles died of throat cancer in June of 2011. The Soles family said it paid $4,000 for the marker.

On it, a picture of 'Soles,' as he liked to be called. A picture of his favorite pick-up truck. And a photograph of Soles playing cards and drinking with his friend Butch.

"I'm not real sure about the controversy with the stone," said Soles' daughter, Shawn Carter. "I don't see anything obscene about what I put on it."

But Salem United Methodist Church - which owns the cemetery - didn't like the two-inch bottle of bourbon on the stone.

The family refused to buff it off - even after the church offered to pay for the removal.

Now the church is suing.

Lawyers argue the family "had no right to erect a monument or stone that is offensive to the members of Salem United Methodist or to those who have loved ones buried there."

"It says in the Bible. It says you know. God doesn't judge you, so don't condemn others so you won't be condemned. And forgive and you'll be forgiven," said Carter.

And it appears an overwhelming number of people commenting on this story agree with the family.

Sunny McGann wrote, "What is a church doing suing someone? It's pretty clear what the Bible says about it. Maybe they need to re-read and remember. It's a shame."

Nicki Gray defends the church. She wrote, "I can't believe that a person would drag a church down because they asked that their property simply be respected."

NBC 12 legal analyst Steve Benjamin said that's exactly what this fight will come down to - the property rights.

"If the gentleman actually inherited the actual property. Property that was inherited. Conveyed by deed. Without any restrictive covenant or agreement than he and his survivors have the right to use it. As they see fit," said Benjamin.

The family said it owns the burial plots. In court documents, the church said neither the family or Soles have any property rights.

Our legal analyst said this debate is better served if it's resolved outside of a courtroom.

"I think we always want to encourage folks to do what they can to get along with others. Especially when you're talking about someplace that can be as revered as a final resting place."

We reached out to the church trustees, but they declined to comment.

The family has until Sunday to either fight the suit in court or buff off the pictures, remove the marker altogether or have their father's body moved.

If you'd like to sound off on this story - join the conversation on our facebook page or you can vote in on online poll.

Copyright 2012 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.