Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


The cross without Christ

posted by Rod Dreher

I was pleased to see the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing a large cross built on public land in California to stay in place. I don’t understand why some people freak out over things like this, as if any sign of religion in public were some sort of egregious affront. It seems to me that the land transfer solution Congress authorized to get around Establishment clause problems is pretty clever. Still, it’s hard for me to see that Stanley Fish is entirely wrong when he points out how in order to protect the cross, the Supreme Court has to engage in pretzel logic that evacuates religious meaning from the central symbol of Christianity. Excerpt:

Now the fun and crazy stuff begins. Kennedy denies that the “emplacement” of the cross was accompanied by any intention “to promote a Christian message.” It was “intended simply to honor our Nation’s fallen soldiers.” (At oral argument Peter Eliasberg, an ACLU lawyer, observed, “There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew.”) Therefore, Kennedy reasoned, Congress had no “illicit” intention either; it merely sought a way to “accommodate” (a term of art in Establishment Clause jurisprudence) a “symbol often used to honor and respect those whose heroic acts, noble contributions and patient striving help secure an honored place in history for this Nation and its people.”
Notice what this paroxysm of patriotism had done: it has taken the Christianity out of the cross and turned it into an all-purpose means of marking secular achievements. (According to this reasoning the cross should mark the winning of championships in professional sports.) It is one of the ironies of the sequence of cases dealing with religious symbols on public land that those who argue for their lawful presence must first deny them the significance that provokes the desire to put them there in the first place.
It has become a formula: if you want to secure a role for religious symbols in the public sphere, you must de-religionize them, either by claiming for them a non-religious meaning as Kennedy does here, or, in the case of multiple symbols in a park or in front of a courthouse, by declaring that the fact of many of them means that no one of them is to be taken seriously; they don’t stand for anything sectarian; they stand for diversity. So you save the symbols by leeching the life out of them. The operation is successful, but the patient is dead.



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Grumpy Old Man

posted May 5, 2010 at 8:07 am


There are two forces contributing to this kind of thing. First, Protestants who fear Catholic domination of the state more than they care about public religious symbols, and thus advocate a radical separation of church and state. Second, secular and atheist Jews who dominate the ACLU and similar groups, and retain Jewish fear and hatred for Christianity even as they reject traditional Judaism. Although it is this hatred that motivates lawsuits of this kind, they are always couched in universal terms, such as “separation of church and state.”
This country is traditionally Protestant, and still Protestant in its majority. A bit of respect for that tradition is warranted. Moreover, the First Amendment was designed to prevent the federal government from establishing one of the Protestant sects over all others as the official state religion, as was then true in many states.
Our jurisprudence on these issues is a mess. The Court needs to take another look and say that civic symbolic expressions of religion are not the sort of thing the establishment clause was ever intended to address.



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Hank

posted May 5, 2010 at 8:13 am


Isn’t this the same thing that society has done to the Star of David, that causes it to be seen as a cultural expression, and not the deeply religious rooted symbol it is?
Seems to me that the cross and the star (or the crescent) shouldn’t have to be emptied of their meaning to be tolerated by those who don’t share the faith.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted May 5, 2010 at 8:18 am


First, Protestants who fear Catholic domination of the state more than they care about public religious symbols, and thus advocate a radical separation of church and state.
Must be a NorthEastern thing – I’ve never seen anything like that in Texas.
Seems to me that the cross and the star (or the crescent) shouldn’t have to be emptied of their meaning to be tolerated by those who don’t share the faith.
Heck, put up anything you want, as long as it isn’t in a public space that my tax dollars support.



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Rombald

posted May 5, 2010 at 8:38 am


As a UK citizen, religious freedom and separation of church and state, is something about the USA that I wholeheartedly approve and envy.
Agreeing with John E, I can’t understand how you can justify using tax dollars or government land to erect an explicitly Christian symbol. Would you defend the placement of a Muslim or Wiccan symbol?
Grumpy: “This country is traditionally Protestant, and still Protestant in its majority. A bit of respect for that tradition is warranted.”
That’s what some conservatives say about Anglicanism in England.



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Randy

posted May 5, 2010 at 8:46 am


Yes,
While serving as a campus minister I tried to tell my evangelical friends that I saw the ruling that allowed the Ten Commandments to remain in the display in the same way: “How can you declare it a victory when your symbol has just had all the religious value sucked out of it by the very ruling that allows it to stay there?”
This is why I advocate that if Christians want to have public displays, they should make them of the “Fruits of the Spirit” from Galatians 5 or Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount. If the courts would approve that, it would provide Christian direction in how to live and would be much more difficult to deny any religious meaning.
Peace,
Randy G.



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naturalmom

posted May 5, 2010 at 8:52 am


Kennedy denies that the “emplacement” of the cross was accompanied by any intention “to promote a Christian message.” It was “intended simply to honor our Nation’s fallen soldiers.”
I believe this was the argument of those who erected the cross as well. (Or at least of those who now are guardians of it.) It must be true if they honestly intend it to honor all fallen soldiers, since otherwise it would only honor Christian soldiers.
I’m very slow to get worked up about stuff like this cross, which seems much more benign than, say, the 10 Commandments in the courthouse thing. I’m in favor of people chilling a bit about crosses for the dead and Christmas trees on the square. But I think people who want to erect religious symbols in public spaces need to examine their motives. You can’t have it both ways — either it’s benign because the symbolism is mostly cultural, or it’s an assertion of Truth as you see it, which is much more aggressive. Complicating matters is Christianity’s proselytizing nature. Some people get less worked up about displays of Jewish or Buddhist symbolism because they do not see those as a declaration of “You should come over to our side!” You can’t blame people who have repeatedly been on the receiving end of evangelism for being more wary of Christian displays of faith symbols.
First, Protestants who fear Catholic domination of the state more than they care about public religious symbols, and thus advocate a radical separation of church and state.
Must be a NorthEastern thing – I’ve never seen anything like that in Texas.
I never saw anything like that in the 9 years I lived in the Northeast, nor have I seen it here in the Midwest. Not sure where Grumpy is coming from on this one.



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MH

posted May 5, 2010 at 8:53 am


John E, in general North-easterners are unconcerned about Catholics. Most Northeast cities were traditionally split between Catholics and mainline Protestants. In my lifetime there’s been little conflict, except around the edges. For example should public schools provide transportation to parochial schools and so forth.
If anything North-easterners are more nervous about Southern Baptists. But this is because on average they are on opposite sides of issues like teaching evolution, and politics.



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Turmarion

posted May 5, 2010 at 9:11 am


Grumpy Old Man: Protestants who fear Catholic domination of the state more than they care about public religious symbols, and thus advocate a radical separation of church and state.
I’m with John E.–I don’t see this as being as much operative nowadays. However, this is the reason the U.S. Catholic school system is so large. Back in the good old days of the 19th Century, prayer and Bibles and such were allowed in schools–however, only Protestant prayers and Bibles. Catholic children weren’t allowed to sit out the prayers, and in some states there was an explicit expression of the desire to Protestantize those Romish young’uns to get them away from all that popery, so they’d be proper Americans. Hence the necessity of a separate system of parochial schools. This is the kind of history that advocates of a greater role for religion in the public square seem to need to learn.
This country is traditionally Protestant, and still Protestant in its majority. A bit of respect for that tradition is warranted.
OK, but how much is “a bit”? Crosses on public lands? Ten Commandment placards in courts? School prayer? And surely this doesn’t mean that non-Protestant or even non-Christian religions don’t warrant a bit of respect, too, right? Or is it that only the majority gets “a bit of respect”? Or is it proportional–signs of “respect” for each religion depending on its numbers in this country (so, e.g., 60-70% for Protestants, 25% for Catholics, 2-5% for Jews, etc.)? And if demographic changes alter the proportions, does the representation in the public square change? Or since the country is “traditionally” Protestant, does Protestantism hold pride of place indefinitely? You see the problems, I trust.
Moreover, the First Amendment was designed to prevent the federal government from establishing one of the Protestant sects over all others as the official state religion, as was then true in many states.
True, but is that the only interpretation? Does that typify the Founders as a group? Jefferson famously spoke of a “wall of separation” between church and state. True, he probably didn’t have problems with public expressions of faith. However, like the French philosophes he admired, his motivation was much different from that of most modern proponents of such displays. He believed that enlightened, philosophical people (such as, amazingly, himself) had no need of such crudities (see the Jefferson Bible), but that they were regrettably necessary to keep the unwashed masses moral enough and disciplined enough to keep from destroying society. He seems to have believed that with the spread of education, Deist-type beliefs would eventually drive out traditional religion, and there would no longer be a need for public displays and such, anyway.
Washington, to take another Founder, wasn’t as extreme as this, but contra attempts to paint him otherwise, it is clear from his speeches and his practice (he went to church less and less frequently as he grew older, and always left before Communion when he did go) that he was no fan of organized religion.
Hank: Isn’t this the same thing that society has done to the Star of David, that causes it to be seen as a cultural expression, and not the deeply religious rooted symbol it is?
Actually, the Star of David is not a deeply religious and originated more as a “cultural expression”. I’m not putting in the link because it messes with the CAPTCHA, but look at Wikipedia or google it. The ancient symbol of Judaism was consistently the menorah. The Star of David appears late (partially under Kabbalistic influence) and sometimes alternated with Solomon’s Seal (the interlocked pentagram now associated with witchcraft/paganism). It didn’t become a more or less consistent symbol of Judaism until the Renaissance, and some Jews (especially some Orthodox) actually reject it on the grounds of its supposed association with the occult and its late appearance.
Without going into full detail, I might point out that the situation is the same with the crescent and star. They originated from the banner of the Ottoman Turks, which they took from the (originally Marian!) moon and star at the top of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Conservative Muslims reject it as a symbol of Islam–some reject all symbols on the grounds of idolatry. This is why the Saudi flag uses calligraphy, not symbols. In any case, neither the Star of David nor the crescent and star have the intrinsic connection with Judaism or Islam that the cross has with Christianity. Even there, the chi-rho and the ichthus were more commonly used as Christian symbols for the first four centuries or so.
Randy: You remind me of an anecdote told of Mark Twain. A wealthy businessman told Twain that he intended some day to travel to the Holy Land, climb Mt. Sinai, and read the Ten Commandments from the summit. Twain replied, “Why not just stay home and keep them?”
Rod: I don’t understand why some people freak out over things like this, as if any sign of religion in public were some sort of egregious affront.
But would you feel the same if it were a Scientology symbol, or a Voudun symbol, or some such? Can you see why, from a Jewish perspective (especially in the aftermath of he Holocaust), a cross honoring the dead would indeed be offensive? Anyway, what would be wrong with a secular monument to the war dead, along the lines of a stature, monolith, etc.?
John E.: Heck, put up anything you want, as long as it isn’t in a public space that my tax dollars support.
John, my man, we’ve disagreed on a lot of stuff here, but I’m 100% with you here! I wouldn’t want someone using my tax dollars to impose a religious symbol I had issue with on me; likewise, I wouldn’t want anyone else’s tax dollars supporting a symbol that they had issues with. Golden Rule, and all, y’know!



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Peter

posted May 5, 2010 at 9:16 am


Those at the forefront of pushing public into the public square are Protestants–specifically Evangelicals–and not Catholics. Grumpy is just playing the Catholic victim card that is so popular these days.
Yes, it is ironic that religion has to be wrung out of Christian symbols in order for them to be considered acceptable. As it should be. I a country that is 75-80 percent Christian but where the Founding Fathers were clear about church/state separation, there needs to be an effort to prevent Christianity becomes a de facto state religion by government-funding of Christian statements.



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hlvanburen

posted May 5, 2010 at 9:18 am


“There are two forces contributing to this kind of thing. First, Protestants who fear Catholic domination of the state more than they care about public religious symbols, and thus advocate a radical separation of church and state.”
Given that there was a time in our history where Catholics had a good reason to fear Protestants and their “anti-Papist” rantings, I’d say that the fear, if it exists at all, should be flowing the opposite direction. However, given how little discussion there has been among Evangelicals about the fact that eight of the nine Justices on our Supreme Court are Catholic, I’m tempted to think you are way off base in your identification of this “fear”.
“Second, secular and atheist Jews who dominate the ACLU and similar groups, and retain Jewish fear and hatred for Christianity even as they reject traditional Judaism. Although it is this hatred that motivates lawsuits of this kind, they are always couched in universal terms, such as “separation of church and state.””
Ah yes, the antisemitism card. Is this what the Cross represents to you, Grumpy One?



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hlvanburen

posted May 5, 2010 at 9:23 am


I find it rather strange that so few of the groups advocating for the public display of Christian symbols actually put up these symbols in places where their presence would evoke no controversy at all. For example, how many churches have large, well manicured lawns that could hold large displays of the Ten Commandments, numerous Crosses, a fully stocked creche, and many other symbols. Yet these lawns are vacant. Why? It seems to me that their own property would provide a wonderful place for them to put up these symbols. But most of them do not.
If it is important for the Ten Commandments to be seen by people as a reminder of the moral standards set by the Bible, I’d think that putting a billboard up along the street or highway running in front of the church would be a perfect spot for it.
Of course, there would be no controversy in that.



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Marcel Ledbetter

posted May 5, 2010 at 9:24 am


The army awards the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism. Maybe the Justice thinks the same logic that allows the DSC allows this VFW cross.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted May 5, 2010 at 9:37 am


John, my man, we’ve disagreed on a lot of stuff here, but I’m 100% with you here! I wouldn’t want someone using my tax dollars to impose a religious symbol I had issue with on me; likewise, I wouldn’t want anyone else’s tax dollars supporting a symbol that they had issues with. Golden Rule, and all, y’know!
and
Thanks Tumarion, allow me to say that you put a whole lot of good info in your above post about the history of religious symbols…



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CAP

posted May 5, 2010 at 9:44 am


what are some firsthand experiences that people have with anti-catholicism?
i’ve never heard any of the very protestant christians that i know ever railing against ‘papists’, or anything of the sort. i’m just wondering where this is playing out in america 2010.
(no 3 year old newspaper clippings from the other side of the country, please.)



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TTT

posted May 5, 2010 at 9:54 am


secular and atheist Jews who dominate the ACLU and similar groups, and retain Jewish fear and hatred for Christianity even as they reject traditional Judaism. Although it is this hatred that motivates lawsuits of this kind, they are always couched in universal terms, such as “separation of church and state.”
“Traditional Judaism” is just as firmly in favor of separation of church and state. Basically all American Jews except the meaningless fringe weirdos on Fox / Worldnet support it, because they know that they are safest in a country that doesn’t institutionally and explicitly favor majority religions over minority religions. One man’s “Jewish fear” is another man’s “learning the lessons of history and respecting the strengths and successes of the Constitution.”
This country is traditionally Protestant, and still Protestant in its majority. A bit of respect for that tradition is warranted.
The Establishment Clause is much more traditionally American than Protestantism is–it applies to everybody, not just Protestants. How much do you respect that?
And Eliasberg is, of course, perfectly right. Saying the cross is some ecumenical symbol for “dead guy” is plainly a fiction. I would much rather have the most ornate and explicit pro-Christian display, with a creche and the hand of God and the Last Supper all at once, on a piece of land that was privately owned, than I would a simple two-plank cross on the exact same piece of land that was owned by the government.
And Grumpy, unless you’d be fine with the government hanging pictures of the Pope in every public park, you’d better not complain about that.



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hlvanburen

posted May 5, 2010 at 10:18 am


“i’ve never heard any of the very protestant christians that i know ever railing against ‘papists’, or anything of the sort. i’m just wondering where this is playing out in america 2010.”
There are some branches of Protestantism that still hold strong feelings against Catholicism. However these groups tend to be on the fringe and, for the most part, do not draw much attention outside their relatively small membership. Independent Fundamental Baptists of the KJV-only variety come to mind as one VERY vocal but VERY small group that would fall into this category.
From a historical perspective there has indeed been quite a bit of anti-Catholic sentiment expressed by various Protestant groups. One need only look at the original preface to the Authorized Version of the Bible (KJV) (www.kjvbibles.com/kjpreface.htm) and the “From the Translators to the Reader” introduction (www.ccel.org/bible/kjv/preface/pref1.htm) to see just a bit of it.
Anti-Catholic sentiment also came to the fore during the early part of last century with the rise of Fundamentalism, a response to the use of critical analysis with regards to the “original” texts of the Bible. Westcott and Hort, two prominent scholars in that movement, were pilloried for their reliance on the Codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, both of which were viewed as having been corrupted while in the watchcare of the Catholic Church. Several of the articles included in the 1917 publication “The Fundamentals” dealt with this issue. (www.xmission.com/~fidelis/)



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Roland de Chanson

posted May 5, 2010 at 10:40 am


I wholeheartedly agree with John Agn Stoic, Turmarion, Rombald, et al. Public monies should not be expended on monuments favoring any particular religion.
Except maybe the Cult of Aphrodite. Maybe a statue of Angelina Jolie on the half shell?
I am, however, astonished that Trad Catholics are not incensed (come to think of it, they are, but only by the thurifer) that a mere cross was used and not a crucifix. Of course, it all went down the tubes when they failed to protest “Novus Ordo” on the currency. The Masons mocking the Mass! How easy the descent to Avernus!



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Rombald

posted May 5, 2010 at 10:41 am


Marcel: “The army awards the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism. Maybe the Justice thinks the same logic that allows the DSC allows this VFW cross.”
It doesn’t strike me as absurd that non-Christians should be given the option of an alternative design.
However, a distinction should be made between existing things and new things. I don’t think that old roadside crosses or shrines on government land should be demolished. I also don’t really agree with the people who’ve been calling for crosses to be removed from the flags of England, Scotland, the Scandinavian countries, etc. I would, however, oppose the creation of a new Christian flag or the builiding of a new Christian roadside monument. Not a complicated distinction surely?



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Hector

posted May 5, 2010 at 10:46 am


RE: I also don’t really agree with the people who’ve been calling for crosses to be removed from the flags of England, Scotland, the Scandinavian countries, etc.
The difference being, again, that those countries have established religions (Anglican, Presbyterian, or Lutheran). Which is fine for them. America doesn’t, however.
Let England be English, and let America be American.



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Hector

posted May 5, 2010 at 10:50 am


Re: Or is it proportional–signs of “respect” for each religion depending on its numbers in this country (so, e.g., 60-70% for Protestants, 25% for Catholics, 2-5% for Jews, etc.)?
This country isn’t 60-70% Protestant- it’s just over 50% Protestant, and within a few years they will probably cease to be a majority.



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Randy

posted May 5, 2010 at 11:13 am


CAP
Some of the anti-Catholic statements I have heard include
A protestant campus minister noting that Catholics were not to be associated with as fellow Christians.
University students speaking of Catholics as in “He is Catholic [not Christian].”
A bit different: Leaders of significant campus ministries classifying Catholics with mainline Protestant denominations as of wrong beliefs.”
Peace,
Randy G.



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Rombald

posted May 5, 2010 at 11:24 am


Christians I knew in Japan used to complain loudly about anything they thought suggested the unconstutional establishment of Shinto as the state religion. They not only object to the prime minister visiting Shinto shrines, but to New Year’s Day being a national holiday, on the ground that it can be seen as a Shinto holy day. Some people I knew maintained that all street decorations are a form of religious persecution. This is despite the fact that Shinto has very little doctrinal or moral content, and in some ways is really rather like US quasi-deist civic religion. When the boot is on the other foot, things look different.



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D Bilodeau

posted May 5, 2010 at 11:33 am


Re: “Except maybe the Cult of Aphrodite. Maybe a statue of Angelina Jolie on the half shell?”
The university in my town actually did this in the early 1960s (though not portraying Angelina, obviously) — an enormous nude Venus recumbent, awakening from the foam in the middle of a circular pool with multiple fountains, mostly spewed from the mouths of the dolphins encircling her. All this in the midst of a sort of piazza del Arte, the auditorium, school of fine arts, library of rare books and manuscripts all on the periphery, all with the massive nude Venus at the focus of their facades.
A venerable and charming, if often inebriated, professor of English and Linguistics wrote a satyrical poem at the time about this eruption of kitsch on the campus. Abducting a dolphin or two has been a favorite fraternity prank ever since.



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Rombald

posted May 5, 2010 at 11:40 am


Bilodeau: “satyrical”
Was the mis-spelling deliberate? If not, it should have been!



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kenneth

posted May 5, 2010 at 11:48 am


Since it’s “just” a generic symbol, it must be fair game to use for a line of BDSM videos, right?



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Fr. Bill

posted May 5, 2010 at 11:56 am


I would really like for the ACLU to take on the egregious establishment of religion here in California. Not only is my municipality named “Our Lady Queen of the Angels of Portiuncula”, but I have to live next to a bay and another city and look at mountains named for some other Christian saint and if I look the other direction I have to look at either mountains named for yet another saint or an island with the should be unconstitutional name of another saint. I feel oppressed!
I can’t escape by road because all the signs have more religious words whether I go north, south or east and even if I go to the airport I have to look at flags with crosses and even a flight board with names like Trinidad, Dominica, St. Maarten and El Salvador. Who will free me from this religious oppression? I’m sick of it!



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted May 5, 2010 at 12:18 pm


Who will free me from this religious oppression? I’m sick of it!
Although Fr. Bill was no doubt being satirical, his post does point out, along with Rombald’s post about the European situation, the need – if only for merely practical reasons – for a distinction between historical names and monuments and those newly erected.



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the stupid Chris

posted May 5, 2010 at 12:20 pm


The notion that Public monies should not be expended on monuments favoring any particular religion. would seem to preclude religious symbols on the tombstones in our national cemeteries. Those monuments are paid for by tax dollars, and each favors the particular religion of the soldier buried under it. Somehow I don’t see you guys all demanding that we strip all those grave markers of their religious symbols…
But to Rod’s point, the interpretation of “freedom of religion” to include “freedom from religion” necessarily means that formerly religious symbols be rendered mere museum pieces, artifacts of history rather than symbols of living faith. This profanation would seem to do a disservice to faithful and faith-less alike.
Having been raised Catholic in a Protestant public school system I came to understand the wisdom of separating faith from government in my first year at school, when the very nice teacher explained to me the error of my parent’s faith and why we weren’t “real” Christians. After all, we said the “wrong” Our Father!
And yet, I believe that this could have been decided on a very different basis, that freedom of religion opens public property to all faiths and no faith, just as it does in our national cemeteries, and that the presence of a cross is not prohibited so long as any other faith has the same access to the same benefit of our public places.
Christianity should not be allowed trump any other faith, and neither should atheism.



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Grumpy Old Man

posted May 5, 2010 at 12:57 pm


I had in mind an organization once called “Protestants and Other Americans United,” whose main bugaboo was the fear of Catholic political domination. Their leader was one Paul Blanshard. They opposed such things as “released time” in public schools for religion classes.
The ACLU, of course, has been at the forefront of secular legal offensives for years. The ACLU is a predominantly Jewish organization, both in its leadership and its financial backing. They don’t like Orthodox Judaism very much, but are even less fond of Christianity, but express their hostility by invoking neutral principles of constitutional law, which in my view are distortions of the purpose and origin of the First Amendment.
I believe that expressions of civic religion tend to be bland, and to the extent they have meaning, heretical, but I don’t see them as much of a threat to anything, other than deeper religious expression.
A memorial cross, mirroring the thousands of crosses on the graves of our soldiers, seems about the most innocuous thing of all.



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Marian

posted May 5, 2010 at 1:16 pm


“what are some firsthand experiences that people have with anti-catholicism?”
Back when I was a Catholic, my boyfriend’s parents wouldn’t let him marry me because they didn’t want a Catholic in the family. Will that do?



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TTT

posted May 5, 2010 at 1:32 pm


The ACLU is a predominantly Jewish organization, both in its leadership and its financial backing.
Yes, yes, “the Jews and their money.”
They don’t like Orthodox Judaism very much but are even less fond of Christianity,
That’s the second time you’ve tried to hide your critique of Judaism behind a rebbe’s tallis. “Traditional” or “Orthodox,” American Jews as a rule are against mingling church with state.
If you want to live in a Christian exceptionalist country you are in the wrong place. The Founders had full authority and opportunity to write “Christian nation” all over the law, but consistently did not–and in fact did the exact opposite.



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TTT

posted May 5, 2010 at 1:36 pm


A memorial cross, mirroring the thousands of crosses on the graves of our soldiers, seems about the most innocuous thing of all.
The graves only get crosses if the soldier was Christian. So the giant stand-in cross is only “innocuous” if it is meant explicitly and only for Christian soldiers, or if you think there were no non-Christian soldiers, or that non-Christian soldier sacrifice doesn’t matter enough to tell the truth about their heritage, or you belong to some sect that “baptizes” them after death.



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the stupid Chris

posted May 5, 2010 at 2:15 pm


So the giant stand-in cross is only “innocuous” if it is meant explicitly and only for Christian soldiers, or if you think there were no non-Christian soldiers, or that non-Christian soldier sacrifice doesn’t matter enough to tell the truth about their heritage, or you belong to some sect that “baptizes” them after death.
Due respect, TTT, but you appear to be going out of your way to take offense where none is intended.
To put this another way: If you made your statement about a Star of David, or a Crescent, or a Buddah, it would be impossible to take you seriously.
Captcha: almost grateful



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Roland de Chanson

posted May 5, 2010 at 2:20 pm


Speaking of oppression by religion, when I was in a public high school, we used to begin the day with a reading from the KJV of the Psalms. Little did I realize that I was listening to a Protestant translation of a Jewish book. O the tyranny of it all!
No wonder I lost my faith. Well, that and the cult of Dionysus, Aphrodite and the Muses.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted May 5, 2010 at 2:23 pm


The notion that Public monies should not be expended on monuments favoring any particular religion. would seem to preclude religious symbols on the tombstones in our national cemeteries. Those monuments are paid for by tax dollars, and each favors the particular religion of the soldier buried under it. Somehow I don’t see you guys all demanding that we strip all those grave markers of their religious symbols…
I think the difference is that a tombstone is an observance of an individual whereas most other monuments are oriented towards the general. Furthermore, there is are officially designated symbols for atheists, humanists, and Wiccans – as well as a host of others.
http://www.cem.va.gov/hm/hmemb.asp



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TTT

posted May 5, 2010 at 2:44 pm


Chris: I’m not offended, I’m pointing out why this is a dispute in the first place–why “cross” is not an appropriate synonym for “dead people” as far as our government should be concerned. If the government got the idea in its head that a Buddha statue could likewise stand in for a whole bunch of dead people who weren’t necessarily Buddhists, I’d speak against that too.



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Roland de Chanson

posted May 5, 2010 at 3:08 pm


John E, Agn Stoic,
The link you gave has some very disturbing implications. There is no symbol for Stoics! Worse, there is none for Epicureans, which is my primary religion. Catholicism is my backup faith just in case. Plus the hymns are better.
Though Al Martino’s “Come share the wine” would make a great Epicurean anthem:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfzuFU84eds
And as sung in Polish (as “Greek Wine”) by the great Anna German:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10duOc2ApIY



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted May 5, 2010 at 3:13 pm


Roland de Chanson, it isn’t quite as bad as all that – the fine print at the bottom of the page describes how to go about submitting a New Emblem of Belief. Just a matter of coming up with an Epicurean logo.



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Hector

posted May 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm


Re: Just a matter of coming up with an Epicurean logo.
How about a martini glass?



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted May 5, 2010 at 4:20 pm


How about a martini glass?
Well, heck, just use #8, the Unitarian Universalist logo in that case…



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Gary

posted May 5, 2010 at 4:34 pm


Re Marian:
“‘what are some firsthand experiences that people have with anti-catholicism?’
Back when I was a Catholic, my boyfriend’s parents wouldn’t let him marry me because they didn’t want a Catholic in the family. Will that do?”
It’s an odd request to begin with, since anecdotal evidence really doesn’t help with establishing trends or patterns. As an example: when my mother (Protestant) married my father (Catholic), his family rejected it because she wasn’t Catholic. They would ignore her at family gatherings, and it required roughly eight years before she was welcomed more than the woman who followed my father around.
Rather than cop this to an example of Catholic anti-Protestantism (as some might be inclined), I prefer to recognize that incidents usually speak to the parties and their behaviors involved rather than global trends of the groups of which they are a part.
That’s not to say I diminish the existence of prejudices that may exist in groups…I’m simply wary of using anecdotes and personal examples to justify their presence when, by the nature of personal, they are so biased on our perceptions and preconceptions.



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elizabeth

posted May 5, 2010 at 5:05 pm


“Seems to me that the cross and the star (or the crescent) shouldn’t have to be emptied of their meaning to be tolerated by those who don’t share the faith.”
To those who don’t share the faith, the symbols have no religious meaning. The concern is about having any faith forced down our throats on public lands, in public buildings and by the government.
If Christianity had a long history of kind tolerance there would be no such fears. But our experiment in this country is relatively young and too many people are still carrying around Old World fears from stories their grandparents passed on.



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stari_momak

posted May 5, 2010 at 5:16 pm


The cross was erected in 1934, long before the cult of scrubbing every bit of Christian culture out of the public sphere began. It was erected to honor the dead of WWI. It is unlikely that non-christians made up even 5% of the US WWI dead. Why should 95% of the people have to bow-down before 2%, have our symbols stripped off of land that, after all, was conquered by Christian protestants?
More pushback, please.



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David J. White

posted May 5, 2010 at 5:55 pm


Thank you, Stari! Can we at least agree that there should be some kind grandfathering with respect to the monuments put up by previous generations? Just because we would have a problem *now* with putting a memorial cross on public land, does that mean we have to go and knock down every one that was erected by our ancestors? Do we really want to put ourselves in the position of having to go around and “edit” all the old monuments every time society’s values change?
This was at one time a country with an overwhelming majority that was unapologetically Christian. That’s a historical fact, and the public monuments of previous ages reflect that. Get over it.
I mean, even the “National Association for the Advancement of Colored People” keeps its traditional name, even though it’s no longer considred respectable to refer black people as “colored”. Why? Because the name reflects the time when the organization was founded, and the name has become established and well known. If they tried to change their name to accommodate society’s every change in taste their name would be “The National Association of Colored Negro Black African American People.”
Are we going to go through audio records of Martin Luther King’s speeches and bleep out every time he says “Negro”?
Or should we paint in a few women and black people onto Trumbull’s painting depicting the Signing of the Declaration of Independence, because a picture of nothing but white men might offend some people nowadays? Sheesh.
As for the Christians in Japan who get upset that the Emperor visits a Shinto shrine, I would tell them to get over it, too.



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Loudon is a Fool

posted May 5, 2010 at 6:57 pm


It was totally awesome when the Taliban blew up those giant Buddhas. It’s just not appropriate for a country to remember its history when that history has a religious significance. A people must continually be reborn into a cleaner, faster more modern people. We need to find some more old timey religious symbols to tear down.



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Turmarion

posted May 5, 2010 at 6:59 pm


stari_momak: [H]ave our symbols stripped off of land that, after all, was conquered by Christian protestants?
Killing and conquering those pesky natives always confers rights to symbols and such so effectively! I guess you’d be consistent and say it’s just too bad for the Christian dhimmis in Islamic countries, by right of conquest by the Dar-ul-Islam?



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the stupid Chris

posted May 5, 2010 at 7:20 pm


The concern is about having any faith forced down our throats on public lands, in public buildings and by the government.
No-one is being forced to recite prayers, no-one is being forced to kneel, and no-one to the best of my knowledge has been held down and had a piece of said cross shoved down their throat. I take it that your life has been rather comfortable, or you’d know better than using this emotion-laden language to describe the horror of having a religious symbol appear within your sensory event horizon
I, for one, would welcome a plethora of religious symbolism back into American public life, not as a cudgel with which to beat each other but as a celebration of the diversity of our lives. And just as I would not allow the government to favor one religion over another, I would not allow it to favor atheism over theism.



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the stupid Chris

posted May 5, 2010 at 7:27 pm


It was totally awesome when the Taliban blew up those giant Buddhas….
LOL! I snorted.
Ever notice how “Reverend King” became “Dr. King” in current history? It’s as if being the pastor of a Baptist Church did not inform his participation in the Civil Rights movement. And SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) gets overlooked as well.



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Jillian

posted May 5, 2010 at 7:44 pm


In a country that is 75-80 percent Christian
More accurately, it has roughly 35% active adherents and 40-45% various degrees of passive and nominal adherents to Christianity.
I also don’t really agree with the people who’ve been calling for crosses to be removed from the flags of England, Scotland, the Scandinavian countries, etc.
The major pre-Christian religious symbol in Europe had two line elements orthogonal to each other at their center, signifying the four-way partition of the world. Into the four realms of 3 interrelated deities assigned the skies, the earth, and waters respectively, plus a fourth deity associated with fire and wrongdoing. When Rod says that Christianity is the perfection or completion of European paganism, as concerns the symbolisms of the Cross he is probably right.
I can’t say the banishing of the swastika is a bad thing in European life, frankly. And the U.S. might be a better place when the Stars And Bars are found only in history books.
Not only is my municipality named “Our Lady Queen of the Angels of Portiuncula”, but I have to live next to a bay and another city and look at mountains named for some other Christian saint and if I look the other direction I have to look at either mountains named for yet another saint or an island with the should be unconstitutional name of another saint. I feel oppressed!
People researching the naming of Los Angeles have discovered that ‘de Por(t)(z)iuncola’ is not actually found as a suffix even in the earliest documents of the Pueblo. The name of the settlement was derived from the river it was on. Which in turn was named (the Spanish explorers seem generally to have been people of rather limited imagination) for the saint to which the day was assigned on which they “discovered” that river.



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TTT

posted May 5, 2010 at 8:34 pm


No symbols were “stripped off”, “removed”, “blown up”, or in any way physically altered or moved. Odd that those quickest to say “get over it!” are those who interpret any concession to an opposing viewpoint–even when in this case it is an idea of a concession, the symbol itself remaining completely unchanged and untouched–as an act of violence.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted May 5, 2010 at 10:21 pm


David J. White
May 5, 2010 5:55 PM
Thank you, Stari! Can we at least agree that there should be some kind grandfathering with respect to the monuments put up by previous generations? Just because we would have a problem *now* with putting a memorial cross on public land, does that mean we have to go and knock down every one that was erected by our ancestors? Do we really want to put ourselves in the position of having to go around and “edit” all the old monuments every time society’s values change?
I addressed that issue in my May 5, 2010 12:18 PM post.



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Peter

posted May 5, 2010 at 10:29 pm


More accurately, it has roughly 35% active adherents and 40-45% various degrees of passive and nominal adherents to Christianity.
Not really the point when you are facing Jesus prayers and the 10 Commandments on the town square when you aren’t Christian.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted May 5, 2010 at 10:38 pm


I wish people would render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s – in their respective locations.



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Rombald

posted May 6, 2010 at 6:25 am


JIlian: “The major pre-Christian religious symbol in Europe had two line elements orthogonal to each other at their center, signifying the four-way partition of the world. Into the four realms of 3 interrelated deities assigned the skies, the earth, and waters respectively, plus a fourth deity associated with fire and wrongdoing. When Rod says that Christianity is the perfection or completion of European paganism, as concerns the symbolisms of the Cross he is probably right.”
Crosses, swastikas, etc., did exist as symbols in pre-Christian Europe, as in India, China, etc. Eg.; the most important megalithic site in Scotland, Callanish, is in the shape of a cross. Describing the cross as “the major” symbol is going a bit far, though, surely? Frankly, I take sweeping statements about European paganism, which tend to be found in neopagan books, with a pinch of salt.
Anyway, crosses on European flags are clearly Christian rather than pagan in origin:
# The English and Georgian flags are the red, horizontal St. George’s Cross.
# The Scottish flag is the diagonal St. Andrew’s Cross. The Jamaican flag is said to be based on the Scottish one.
# The Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish flags are all based on the Danish one, which, according to legend, fell from heaven at a mediaeval battle against the pagan Balts.
# I’m not sure about the origin of the Greek flag, but it is recent, and the modern Greek independence movement had a strong anti-Muslim component, so the flag is clearly a Christian statement.
Several of these flags therefore make a Christian statement. This is explicitly anti-Muslim in the case of Greece, and the Scandinavian flags are anti-pagan, for which reason some modern Scandinavians object to their use. English soldiers in Iraq were recently told not to fly the St. George’s Cross, because it is explicitly Christian, and because it was originally associated with the Crusades. It was considered unfair that Scottish soldiers were allowed to fly their flag, but it I suppose it is less obviously a cross to Muslim eyes (this is complicated by constitutional issues relating to England and Scotland).
My tendency is to say that, although I would strongly oppose a new Christian flag, existing things should not be changed.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted May 6, 2010 at 7:03 am


The legal language for allowing occasional displays of religious symbols on public land are indeed unnecessarily complex, and this distorts the fundamental legal framework which should be applied. That happens because there are so many people with axes to grind, who distort the argument from the filing of the first brief, and from the first headline. Journalists tend to kick up more clouds of dust pandering to perceived agendas, rather than enlightening with a well-grounded historical overview.
The government may not erect religious symbols on public property to advance a set of religious beliefs as approved, favored, true, or officially approved. That should be obvious from the plain meaning of the First Amendment. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s “endorsement” test comes close to not only a good balance, but a balance which sustains the principles enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
Unfortunately, there are those who believe that “no establishment of religion” means their tender eyes should be protected from any mention or symbol of God in public, perhaps even their tender ears from ever hearing the words of a hymn wafting through the windows of a church as they pass by on a public sidewalk. This has nothing to do with Establishment.
Equally unfortunately, there are those who believe that “free exercise” means that I Judge Roy Moore can place his preferred religious texts in his courtroom, and any litigant who appears before him who does not share them can like it or lump it, which should also mean that Franklin Evans, should he ever become a judge, can place a statue of the White Goddess in HIS courtroom, and any Jewish, Christian or Muslim litigant can like it or lump it. The counter-argument follows some species of “monotheism is OK” or “Christianity is OK” but nothing else is allowed. That’s not what the plain meaning of the First Amendment offers. It does not say “Congress shall make no law respecting the Establishment of one Christian sect over another in this Christian nation.”
The only reasoning needed to allow this cross to remain on public land, without the transfer to a private owner, would be, religious symbols used in constructing memorials for non-religious purposes shall not be disturbed, unless there is evidence of a pretextual purpose to commit the government to a preference for one religion over another. There are well-reasoned decisions that a city can have a creche, a star of David, holly and ivy, a big bright five pointed star, a band of angels, a Christmas tree, Santa and his reindeer, all as part of a big civic display. Those same decisions deny the city the right to place a creche in a place of honor inside city hall, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus — who do have every right to put such a display on the roof of their own building as a public testament to their own chosen faith.



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GrantL

posted May 6, 2010 at 9:33 am


boo…my comments are being held! Why for? :-P
[Note from Rod: Grant, I dunno. I’ve looked back two days in both the spam bucket and the other “comments pending” bucket, and there’s nothing from you. I don’t know why this is. Sorry. — RD]



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Loudon is a Fool

posted May 6, 2010 at 10:01 am


No symbols were “stripped off”, “removed”, “blown up”, or in any way physically altered or moved. Odd that those quickest to say “get over it!” are those who interpret any concession to an opposing viewpoint–even when in this case it is an idea of a concession, the symbol itself remaining completely unchanged and untouched–as an act of violence.
Huh? Buono was seeking removal of the cross and it has been covered by a big plywood box pending the decision of the Supreme Court. In fact, the government attempted to transfer a parcel of land that the cross stands on to avoid the presence of the cross on federal land and the 9th Circuit ruled that they were just tryin’ to be sneaky with their advancement of religion and what not.



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the stupid Chris

posted May 6, 2010 at 10:28 am


Siarlys Jenkins
May 6, 2010 7:03 AM
Sums things up nicely.



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sds

posted May 6, 2010 at 10:30 am


The point Stanley Fish makes is valid with respect to many judicial decisions upholding religious messages or symbols, but I don’t think it’s valid with respect to Justice Kennedy. (Or with respect to the Supreme Court’s first nativity scene case in Lynch v. Donnelly, which Fish also criticizes.) For a bit of elaboration,see “Was Justice Kennedy Dishonest?”, http://lawreligionethics.net/2010/05/was-justice-kennedy-dishonest/



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Grumpy Old Person

posted May 6, 2010 at 10:59 am


“I don’t understand why some people freak out over things like this, as if any sign of religion in public were some sort of egregious affront.”
Let me see if I can help you ‘understand’ Rod.
How would YOU like a Crescent (or any other Muslim symbol) on government/public lands? Or howabout let’s talk about the preponderance of Taoist symbols on government/public land? Why not all those Rastafarian symbols? Or explain the many, many Zoroastrian symbols on government/public lands? Where are all the Sikh symbols on government/public lands? Could we have a statue of Buddha erected on government/public lands?
You see (well, actually, it seems you DON’T see), it is the EXCLUSION of pretty much every other religion in the world that makes people “freak out” (well, complain, actually) – because America promises freedom of religion to ALL its citizens, yet only “Christian” symbols get government approval/prominence.
That’s why.
Glad I culd he clear that up for you. The rest of us knew that already.
Thank Zeus.



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the stupid Chris

posted May 6, 2010 at 12:40 pm


only “Christian” symbols get government approval/prominence.
In one minute of web searching I found cases from buddahs at a zoo to menorahs in a park. It’s not hard.



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hlvanburen

posted May 6, 2010 at 1:46 pm


“You see (well, actually, it seems you DON’T see), it is the EXCLUSION of pretty much every other religion in the world that makes people “freak out” (well, complain, actually) – because America promises freedom of religion to ALL its citizens, yet only “Christian” symbols get government approval/prominence.”
This was amply illustrated in the case Pleasant Grove City, UT v. Summum, in which the ACLJ filed an amicus brief supporting the city’s position that it was not required to open up the public park for display of Summum’s Seven Aphroisms.
Clearly there are a number of Christians who wish to have the public forum held exclusively for expression of their religious viewpoint.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted May 7, 2010 at 3:45 pm


To fill in the record, Grumpy Old Person, there was a Ten Commandments case about a simple bit of carved granite in La Crosse Wisconsin a few years back. Many of those who wanted the rock left alone said they wouldn’t mind at all if someone wanted to put a statue of Buddha in some corner of the same park.
It is of course true that there are a limited number of corners, a limited number of parks, and nobody wants those pranksters from Sumum cluttering up our parks just to feel good about themselves. I think it is reasonable for a city to prioritize how much room there is in its parks for such monuments, grandfather those already present, and give priority to associations (including religions) who have been a significant part of local life for at least a century or so, and have a foundation going back a millenium or two. Of course, everyone has a right to put up any monument they want on their own land. That’s not government action at all.



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