Friday, May 05, 2006

No Cross in San Diego

I just came across this news item today. It appears that for over 50 years, the city of San Diego has had a cross erected as a memorial to Korean War veterans. After a 17-year (!) legal battle, the city is finally being required to remove the cross or face stiff financial penalties. The cross, I am guessing, is viewed by the courts as un unconstitutional way for the government to advocate a particular religion.

The Constitution actually says, as we all know: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion". It appears that the courts have decided that a cross as a memorial to war veterans is an "establishment" of religion. That seems like a major over-reach to me.

Aren't crosses a prominent Western cultural symbol, used now for centuries particularly in wartime and in cemeteries? How could using a cross to honor Korean War veterans be an "establishment of religion" if the symbol is a standard cultural symbol of long standing?

Is this tombstone (in Arlington National Cemetery) unconstitutional? Maybe not, because the cross design was chosen by the family of the deceased, I presume.

How about this monument or these memorials (also in Arlington National Cemetery)?

Does this make sense to any of you? Can you explain it to me? Where does it stop... if anywhere?



purple_kangaroo said...

It is really nonsensical to me, especially since in that context a cross isn't even a religious symbol, IMHO. A cross to mark a grave or commemmorate a death isn't standing for Jesus, it's representing the dead person, KWIM?

Also, there are so many different types of crosses with different histories and meanings that singling out one is a bit odd--although I guess there would probably be some furor about a swastika.

But, like you said, this type of cross is a general cultural symbol more than a religious or ideological symbol.

purple_kangaroo said...

I wonder what would happen if they added a piece to change the shape of the cross, or removed the crossbar and left the post. That's what I'd do, LOL. Wa-la . . . no more cross.

Kevin said...

... of course then some Bible student would reveal that Jesus may have died on a post rather than a cross, and then people would wear toothpicks around their necks, while a few would sue those who erect sticks on public ground.

Are the Korean War veterans generally Christian? Do they object to the cross? Would we be honoring them by publicly dismissing (or not acknowledging) their most fundamental beliefs?

I wonder at the meaning of "religion" and its sticky relationship with "culture". I wonder if religion isn't actually ubiquitous, with the subtle war being over which religion is prevalent. I wonder why it seems that most of the people who sue to remove Christian symbols are Atheists.

Mark Congdon said...

the subtle war being over which religion is prevalent.

I agree, Kevin. It appears to me that rather than "no establishment of religion", the rule of the day has become "no establishment of the majority religion". Schools can celebrate minority religions and include their symbols, but not the majority religion (at least, the perceived majority religion). Christianity is currently perceived to be the majority religion in America, so it is the restricted party. Frankly, I think either humanistic materialism or nihilistic atheism is the predominant religion, but since those aren't perceived as religions, but as scientific truths, it is quite acceptable for our government to propagandize them.

That's at least the way it appears to me...