Establishment Clause

Can a Giant Christian Cross Be Secular?

The challenge to a World War I memorial in Maryland illustrates the confusion caused by the Supreme Court's Establishment Clause cases.

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Let's talk about the constitutional significance of bushes at the foot of the 40-foot-high, 16-ton concrete Latin cross that sits in the middle of a busy highway intersection at the entrance to Bladensburg, Maryland. Or maybe let's not.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether that monument, which was erected nearly a century ago in honor of 49 local men who died in World War I, amounts to an "establishment of religion" prohibited by the First Amendment. The case shows how confused and confusing the Court's jurisprudence in this area has become.

Under the test the Court described in the 1971 case Lemon v. Kurtzman, a government-sponsored display violates the Establishment Clause if it lacks a secular purpose, if its "principal or primary effect" is to advance or inhibit religion, or if it fosters "an excessive government entanglement with religion." The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which in 2017 ruled that the Bladensburg cross is unconstitutional, thought the bushes were relevant to this analysis because until recently they obscured the plaque inscribed with the names of those 49 dead soldiers, along with a quote from Woodrow Wilson justifying U.S. involvement in one of history's most senseless and devastating wars.

Since those references to World War I for a long time were not visible to passers-by, the appeals court reasoned, the monument's secular aspect was overshadowed by its religious significance. Recognizing the potential legal importance of the bushes, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which has owned and maintained the cross since 1960, cleared them away after three local residents and the American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit challenging the monument in 2014.

The case is not all about the bushes, of course. It is also about the memorial's size, its modeling after "the Cross of Calvary, as described in the Bible," its conspicuous location, its distance from other war memorials in the area, and the exclusively Christian nature of the prayers periodically performed at the site.

Based on factors like these, the 4th Circuit concluded that "a reasonable observer would fairly understand the Cross to have the primary effect of endorsing religion." And since the monument is located on public property and maintained with public money, it represents an "excessive entanglement" of government with religion.

Or maybe not. Chief Judge Roger Gregory, who dissented, thought the majority's "reasonable observer" was unreasonable and deemed the Bladensburg cross consistent with Supreme Court rulings blessing "displays with religious content" that also have "a legitimate secular use."

Who is right? Who knows? The Supreme Court's decisions in cases like this are a muddle.

The Court has said a nativity scene in a city square was constitutional but a nativity scene in a courthouse was not. It has ruled that the Ten Commandments have no place in public schools or courthouses but are OK on a six-foot monolith near a state capitol, provided it is surrounded by other monuments and the text is "nonsectarian," which seems impossible.

The Court's puzzling reasoning in these cases invites arguments that are either disingenuous or oblivious. The commission in charge of the Bladensburg cross, for instance, claims a gargantuan rendering of Christianity's central icon is a "benign" symbol of "military valor and sacrifice" that Americans can embrace "irrespective of their religion."

For non-Christians, a giant government-sponsored cross does not inspire warm and fuzzy feelings about shared values. It looks instead like the majority is promoting its religious beliefs at taxpayers' expense. The question is whether the Constitution forbids that sort of thing.

In a brief urging the Supreme Court to ditch the highly subjective Lemon test, the Cato Institute argues that "the Establishment Clause was designed to prevent religious persecution, not to eradicate religious symbols from public life." In other words, the clause prohibits the establishment of an official religion but not much else. The more Establishment Clause cases you read, the more appealing that approach looks.

© Copyright 2018 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. As a Jew I am grateful for the sacrifices of Americans in protecting our freedoms. I say let this statue stand. Libertarians are the only political group in the country that has not been accused of ‘antisemitism’. Let’s try to keep it that way, ok?

    1. What? How is protesting this obvious religious display even possibly anti-Semitic again?

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    3. I’m the most ardent atheist you’ll ever meet, and stuff like this just makes me want to smack these people. It’s a 100 year old monument to guys that died in a war, leave it alone ffs.

      1. if its “principal or primary effect” is to advance or inhibit religion, or if it fosters “an excessive government entanglement with religion.”

        Like you say, it’s a war memorial. It’s principle or primary effect is to commemorate people killed in war. Yes, it does that with religious imagery, because the people who erected it (and I presume most if not all of the men who it commemorates) were religious, and because death and honoring the dead have long-standing and obvious religious aspects.

        Let it stand. If some people choose to pray there, aren’t they just exorcising their own rights to practice and speak?

        1. I agree entirely. However, I do think that further memorials erected with government money on government land should not be exclusively religious in their symbolism.

          I liken some monuments to ancient religious symbolism in Britain. During the Reformation, many Catholic monuments were destroyed. I’m an atheist (and a protestant apostate), and I see that destruction as a travesty to history. Monuments are symbols of the past. No, not all of them deserve to stand, but the overall message in this monument is one of honoring the war dead, not praise Jesus. So this one should get to stay imo.

      2. Agreed.I haven’t been a Christian in many years and I don’t give a rat’s ass about crosses large or small. But the claim that government maintaining a 100 year old monument, which they only own because they built a road around it, amounts to them endorsing Christianity is pretty silly. I’m pretty sure the government maintains plenty of American Indian sites that contain religious artifacts and burial mounds. Is that an endorsement of religion? The Brits maintain Stonehenge and the Egyptians the Pyramids. Are these endorsements of religion? Like banning Mark Twain and Song of the South or tearing down Confederate statues this is another attempt to censor history.

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  3. I hope the court rules, “we don’t give a damn get a life”.

    1. I like it.

    2. “Got your ‘establishment of religion’ right *here*!”

    3. I am not sure militant atheists have the capacity any longer to obtain a life.

  4. The cross was an ancient torture device of unspeakable horror. That they use it to honor people who were tortured and murdered by an especially insane war gives you an insight into the insanity of these religious people.

    1. Does the above say: “I’m going to open my mouth and prove that I don’t know dick about the situation so I can insult religious people and convince myself I’m ‘right’.” on your screen?

      Because that’s all I see on mine.

      1. Ditto. Fuck off realfakeHihn bot!

    2. I’m starting to suspect “Ordinary Person” is the sock Hank Philip’s uses when he’s taken his Aripiprazole.

  5. Honestly, I’m a Jewish agnostic, and thus don’t worship the cross, but still think this is the very definition of “first world problems.”
    Seriously, we are like 2-3 generations from the Holocaust, and everyone is mad because of a cross memorial? Sheesh. They are just honoring old soldiers. Find people who are actually being harmed or whose liberties are actually being violated (being forced to look at a cross does not qualify), and focus on those issues.

    1. (being forced to look at a cross does not qualify)

      It’s not even really that they’re forced to look. The problem is more that the cross exists. Well, more accurately, that the cross and the government co-exist and that can’t be tolerated. So, the cross has to go.

  6. Yes. Freethought Society v. Chester County

    The “problem” here was a Ten Commandments plaque that was affixed to the facade of the county courthouse in 1920. “Because the county maintained the plaque for a secular reason and the display did not advance religion, it met the requirements of both the Lemon Test and the Endorsement Test; thus, the display did not violate the Establishment Clause.”

    1. I’ve seen the Chester County plaque. It violates the establishment clause and does not reflect the law as administered in said courthouse.

      1. I don’t make the law. I just report it.

        1. I realize that. I’ve also read newspaper accounts of the installation ceremonies back in 1920 and it is pretty obvious the judges in this case ignored the Christian/Bible pounding speeches of the ministers who made dedication remarks. The decision of the judges offends me, the actual plaque I don’t care.

          1. Hey now, originalism/original intent/etc. and so-on only matters when it leads to conservative decisions. If the original intent leads to liberal decisions, it should be ignored.

            That’s just how it works.

    1. Talk about cultural appropriation!

  7. Perhaps one day we will all realize these magic symbols have no magic powers.

    1. Next to go: flags

      1. Those can serve as identification, especially on the high seas.

        1. What about flags with crosses on them? Like Denmark, or Greece?
          Blatant atheistophobic hate symbols.

      2. Better not put flags on your vehicle or property because some twerp will burn it down.

    2. Yet symbols are important to human psychology.

  8. Who is right? Who knows? The Supreme Court’s decisions in cases like this are a muddle.

    Just call it a penaltax, that’ll clarify things.

    I’ve long said that if you have no fucking clue as to how the Supreme Court might decide to rule in a given case, the Law is no longer a bright line separating this you may do from this you may not do and no longer acts as a guide but only post hoc rationalizing. Might as well just pass a single law making it illegal to do bad things and if you want to know whether or not a given action is a bad thing, well, we’ll let the judge and jury decide that after we arrest you. We’re already halfway there with the anti-discrimination laws that require “reasonable” steps to mitigate discrimination against certain classes of people, but “reasonable” is a set of 4-wheel drive goalposts. How can you know ahead of time what’s reasonable enough? You can’t, and that’s a feature not a bug to the cosmic justice folks.

    1. ^This^. Big time.

    2. Ascertainment bias. Only the edge cases not anticipated by the law will make it to SCOTUS.

  9. I feel sorry for the folks with so little willpower and conviction in their beliefs (or lack thereof), that driving by a cross on the side of the road would force them to change their religious viewpoint.

    1. Not sorry enough to support tearing down every monument they decide to be offended by! But yes, must be a sad existence.

    2. “Now I have to avoid non-roundabout intersections!”

  10. But the 1st Amendment is a hands-off by Congress on these matters. It’s state constitutions that have to decide these matters?except insofar as actual persecution, where the 14th amendment can also weigh in.

  11. When I see a cross like that, my first thought isn’t “Christianity”. My first thought is “graveyard” or “memorial”.

    But I am a strange man, and I’m old therefore out of step with the odd society I now find myself in.

    1. In an insane culture being normal is strange.

    2. My first thought is “graveyard” or “memorial”.

      Because you grew up in a primarily Christian country whose culture is heavily influenced by Christianity.

      1. Isn’t the whole freakout about the US, or are American anti-theist bums getting sore over religious symbols in other countries too?

  12. I’m not sure I see how this violates the Establishment Clause. I mean, are the crosses (and for that matter the Stars of David) in the American Cemetery in Normandy a violation of the EC?

    1. This red herring is always brought up.

      Individual markers, based on the person being marked, are naturally different then a monument not tied to an individual.

      1. That word, naturally, does not mean what you think it means.

        Whether an individual acknowledgement, or a group acknowledgement, neither constitutes an endorsement. That is all that matters.

        1. What doesn’t matter, apparently is that I wasn’t arguing endorsement at all.

          All I was doing was pointing out “what about graveyards!” is just a red herring.

          1. To be fair, a memorial marker to a group of dead Christian soldiers, and a memorial marker to a single Christian soldier is pretty much the same thing.
            The proximity to the corpse(s) is the only real difference.

          2. You still miss my point.

            There is nothing ‘natural’ about the meaning of symbols (or any other form of communication.) The meaning conveyed is not inherent to the nature of the device used.

            You could be walking down a beach and come across a series of marks that appear to be cuneiform writing, and being an expert in Sumerian, determine what the words say.

            The only problem is that they are actually seagull tracks and they don’t say a single thing, because the birds are not literate in Sumerian.

            Any form of speech requires intent. And when you speak about the nature of a form of communication what you are really talking about is your presumption about what the actual speaker intended.

            1. Nah, I get it, I just don’t care. You are spring-boarding a tangent off of word choice that frankly isn’t important enough to me to defend.

              So unless you’re going to start arguing that bevis’s argument isn’t a red herring, a strawman fallacy, a dishonest piece of sophistry… then hoot and holler all you want.

  13. “a reasonable observer would fairly understand the Cross to have the primary effect of endorsing religion.”

    “It’s the symbol of the quartering of the Universe into active and passive principles!”

  14. Are we going to bulldoze this as well?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O…..d_Memorial

    1. “It’s what a reasonable observer would do!”

  15. Silly thing to complain about. It’s a war memorial, not a church or religious shrine.

    1. We’re reaching peak outrage, pretty soon the things to be outraged about will run out. If we don’t start producing and developing new sources of outrage, we could have a serious outrage crisis within ten years.

      1. “This outrage outage is pissing me off!”

    2. Indeed. However, it’s not silly to complain about churches and religious shrines, because the more you complain the longer God lets you live.

      1. Ah, so that’s how it works.

        I might complain about the government maintaining a church or shrine with taxpayer money. But this ain’t that.

    3. While it is true it was erected as a war memorial the designers did choose a Christen symbol. I bring this up because a while back conservative lawmakers were complaining about the use of Wiccan symbols on soldier’s graves. The VA allowed this in 2007. My point here is that there is a need for consistency for tolerance. Could we tolerate a Islamic symbol as a memorial for the American GI of that faith. Because if some symbols are accepted and others are not then I believe we have violated the establishment clause.

      1. American service members of the Islamic faith have a choice of the Crescent and Star or the 5 Pointed Star as a symbol on grave markers provided by the VA.

        The VA has been quite liberal about approvinging religious symbols but as you note they were quite reluctant to approve a Wiccan symbol for a soldier killed in Afghanistan until his family sued.

    4. Progressives are lawlessly desecrating and tearing down war memorials across the country.

  16. It’s as secular as a Star of David or a temple to Neptune.

  17. American Humanist Association

    Looks like the Freedom From Religion douchebags finally started their own religion.

    1. “Humanist” as in we care about humanity so much that we focus on trivial bullshit rather than helping people.

  18. As I understand it, this memorial was built on private land that was later purchased or claimed by the state (which would explain why the bushes grew to obscure the names of the fallen). If accurate, this should most definitely factor into the court’s decision, if the original intent matters.

    Who has time to focus on all this shit, anyway? Who has the motivation and resources to bring these lawsuits? Clearly, they have no children or jobs to keep them focused on what’s important.

    If you’re in any way interested in WWI history or artifacts, the National WWI Museum in Kansas City is definitely worth the trip. I just took my son’s Cub Scout den on a tour last weekend, and I could have burned a full 48 hours there.

    1. Only a local like me would point out the irony of something called the “Peace Cross” being in Bladensburg. That’s been a violent area since the War of 1812.

      1. It really is a shithole.

  19. It does not matter whether the cross is secular of not. The Constitution only prohibits Congress from making a law establishing a religion. This nonsense should go before the Supreme Court.

    1. The Constitution only prohibits Congress from making a law establishing a religion. This nonsense should go before the Supreme Court.

      I call violation of the Establishment Clause on you! I’m telling SCOTUS.

  20. “For non-Christians, a giant government-sponsored cross does not inspire warm and fuzzy feelings about shared values.”

    Speak for yourself. The only time I feel warm and fuzzy is when this nation remains majority Christian and is overwhelmingly opposed to letting in millions of people who want to kill me for being Jewish. Tax dollars towards a WWI memorial that honors the faith of the men who died is hardly a state endorsement of faith.

    1. Well, that’s part of the problem isn’t it? I don’t know the faith of the 41 men who this cross was put up for. You don’t either. It’s all a presumption…and that’s wrong. Using a symbol of faith as a memorial for people whose faith you don’t know is wrong. It’s even more wrong for it to be on gov land, maintained by the gov.

      1. It’s all a presumption

        Yeah, I’ll bet the people who actually had it built were clueless too. There’s no way they could have known.

        1. It’s not like we can ask the designer or implementers – or the dead soldiers – but it’s a reasonable guess to think that it didn’t even cross their minds. So yes. Likely clueless.

          1. but it’s a reasonable guess to think that it didn’t even cross their minds

            I think your distinction between reasonable guess and completely arbitrary is firmly cached in your imaginary belief structure.

            The artist that made the cross did the Baha’i Temple (a faith founded on the inclusion of all faiths) *and* Edison’s Memorial and, so, seemed quite capable of making other structures to worship and/or commemorate something besides a cross.

          2. I’m pretty sure $park? was being sarcastic. Baltimore’s history has distinct Irish roots and, contrary to the article the piece appears, at least a bit, to be more of a celtic cross than a latin one (or equally between both). Unless you’re some kind of unimaginative sociopath, there’s no reason to assume the private builder, local churches, family members, fellow soldiers, etc. didn’t have some say, if only from the soap box, about what symbology, religious or other, was appropriate.

          3. it’s a reasonable guess to think that it didn’t even cross their minds.

            I’m sure you believe that.

  21. Even to me as a proud, born-again atheist, this was clearly primarily intended as a memorial to those who served and died for their country in “The Great War” in country that was even more predominantly Christian than it is now.

    Let it be; my self-righteous busybody fellow travelers need to chill out. (Same thing goes for those who want to tear down every monument to soldiers of the Confederacy… get over yourselves and stop seeing 19th C cultural artifacts with 21st C prejudices.)

    1. (Same thing goes for those who want to tear down every monument to soldiers of the Confederacy… get over yourselves and stop seeing 19th C cultural artifacts with 21st C prejudices.)

      The problem, of course, is that a non-insignificant number of those statues are 20th century artifacts put up by Democrats with at least some intent to intimidate the black folks and their ever louder demands that they be treated as human beings.

      The Democrats and progressives trying to take them down know this–because they DID it, and now want that forgotten.

      1. Oooooh those dastardly Democrats! I’m glad you’re here to set the record straight on those devious sunsabitches.

      2. It’s not the “Democrats” or the “progressives” objecting to this, it’s the atheists/humanists.

    2. Not really sure how this relates to statues to the Confederacy. I mean, one is a memorial to dead soldiers. The other is a participation trophy for losers.

      1. Like the Vietnam War Memorial?

        1. Compare when monuments were put up and what kind of memorials they are.

          Most of those Vietnam memorials (and there’s more then the one in DC, there’s little ones everywhere) were put up soon after, like the cross in question. If they have names attached, they’re normally locals to that community.

          Most of the Confederacy monuments, schools, streets and so-on were built/named/etc. Fifty or more years later, with some places continuing to put them up today. A great many of these are not to groups of locals, but to the “heroes” of the Confederacy (how many times have statues of Lee been torn down?).

          You can think the Confederacy deserves it’s participation trophies if you want, but the kinds of monuments folks built for the Confederacy decades later aren’t comparable to actual war memorials, in practice or intent.

  22. The best choice here for the government is to have absolutely nothing to do with any type of religious activity period.
    When everyone has the freedom to believe in whatever magical invisible overlords they dream up, that should effectively make any and all of them completely irrelevant in the eyes of the government.
    I’m still waiting for the lawsuit over Christmas and Easter being federal holidays… If that isn’t an endorsement of a specific religion, not sure how much more you need.

    1. The best choice here for the government is to have absolutely nothing to do with any type of religious activity period.

      The best choice would be for the government, by and large and from the top down, to pack it in and go home. That choice isn’t on the table and neither is yours.

      1. So therefore “Go Team Christian”?

        1. So therefore “Go Team Christian”?

          Or any other religion that’s trouncing the government.

          If you’re going to fabricate choices to build belief around at least fabricate the right choices.

    2. I think that’s just out of convenience because at least 75% of the workforce are going to try to take those days off anyway.

    3. Oh, and Easter isn’t a Federal Holiday.

  23. For non-Christians, a giant government-sponsored cross does not inspire warm and fuzzy feelings about shared values.

    It’s a war memorial. Getting warm fuzzies from it is pretty sick. Further, given the current state of the Catholic (and even some protestant) Church(es), insisting that they give more people more warm fuzzies is a bit of a contradiction.

  24. Replace the ginormous concrete crucifix with a crescent moon with a star inside. Somehow I think that the support would completely flip-flop on the issue. That’s why the govt should stay completely out of the respecting an establishment of religion. Where have I heard that phrase before?

    1. How about a pile of skulls? That would help people who might, with the passage of time, forget why a giant religious symbol is towering over them. War is about death, not resurrection.

      1. This right here is an excellent idea. Every war memorial should be made of skulls.

      2. How about a pile of skulls? That would help people who might, with the passage of time, forget why a giant religious symbol is towering over them. War is about death, not resurrection.

        Commemorating military endeavors with piles of skulls under the banner of a rat’s anus! What could go wrong?

  25. If a local government wanted to erect such a monument, I think the answer is they obviously should not.

    That said, the specific history of this one is that it was built by private folks, on private land, and it was only when the government decided to drop down a highway and acquired the monument that it became a publicly maintained religious monument.

    So on the basis of “two wrongs don’t make a right”, I think it should be permissible for the monument to remain at tax-payer’s expense. But not because it isn’t religious (it obviously is), but that the government created the problem in the first place and should bear the burden thus created.

    An acceptable alternative (to me) is moving the monument (at tax-payer expense) back to private hands and being done with it, but that seems logistically difficult, so I doubt that’s a feasible option.

    1. Does eminent domain give the government the right or obligation to destroy a private memorial, when that destruction is not the least restrictive means to attain the government ends?

      1. To quote myself:

        So on the basis of “two wrongs don’t make a right”, I think it should be permissible for the monument to remain at tax-payer’s expense.

    2. An acceptable alternative (to me) is moving the monument (at tax-payer expense) back to private hands and being done with it, but that seems logistically difficult, so I doubt that’s a feasible option.

      I don’t see why the monument even has to move. Transfer ownership or even just maintenance fees as is. If Chicago can privatize the tollways, I don’t see how the monument couldn’t be. As indicated above, the part of the Constitution preventing Congress from establishing a religion is being used to prevent the viewing of religious iconography from any and all public lands.

  26. It looks instead like the majority is promoting its religious beliefs at taxpayers’ expense.

    Triggered. Gotta find a safe space now.

  27. A cross is a symbol of Christianity. There’s no way a giant cross can be secular.

    But there’s a simple way around this whole legal mess: Sell the land and the cross to a private organization. This cross was erected in 1925 by the American Legion. It was taken over by the State of Maryland in 1961.

    The city of Memphis used a similar tactic to get around a state law that restricted cities from removing Confederate monuments. It sold the monuments to a private organization in December 2017, which then took them down.

    What’s wrong with a little privatization?

    1. There’s no way a giant cross can be secular.

      Sure. A giant burning cross (placed by a S. Baptist in the yard of another S. Baptist) is an unequivocal religious statement. An upside down cross can’t possibly stand as a pro-secular/anti-Christian symbol. A cross with a ring around the middle or two crossbars can’t possibly be a symbol of a race/ethnicity/nationality. A cross with a circle drawn atop it can’t be the (pre-Christian) Egyptian symbol for “life” or the early greek symbol for woman. Nope. Even before Christianity and the Roman Empire any time two lines crossed just so, it always meant “The Crucifixion”. Little known fact? that the Japanese symbol for 10 is “The Crucifixion”.

      ? Not a fact.

    2. “There’s no way a giant cross can be secular.”

      I agree with you. But don’t bet on a court siding with you. If “In God We Trust” isn’t religious, then the crucifix will probably be called an innocuous lower case ‘t’. “These are the symbols that separate us from the godless commies dontchaknow.”

      1. The cross, as a symbol, predates Christianity in both Western and non-Western culture. The idea that the cross always means The Crucifixion or Christianity is dumb. Even if adopted after the crucifixion for originally Christian reasons the idea that a yellow cross on a blue field, a blue cross on a white field, or a blue cross with a white border on a red field says “Christ, Christianity, and Christendom” rather than “Sweden, Finland, and Norway” is mentally retarded.

        1. Mmmhmmm. And Neo-Nazis are just wearing an ancient sandskrit symbol on their arms right smart guy. Symbols have meanings to people.

          1. Yes, they do. Which is why the 45th Infantry Division had a swastika on their uniforms. The Division being from the American southwest, and the symbol being American Indian.

            Then the Nazis came along and ruined everything.

            Pretty much just like this time.

            1. 45th liberated Dachau.

              There is recorded history about that place if anyone wants to find it.

              The insignia when those soldiers went to war was changed to the thunderbird. That they were.

  28. The only religion the unwashed and unenlightened masses need is socialism.
    It the god we slavers and bullies worship, and if its good enough for us, then its good enough for everyone.
    One only has to follow the Gospels according to Saints Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Castro,etc. to discover the true meaning of belief, faith and love.
    Once one sees the true glories of The State, one must then preach the gospel of mass murder, oppression, tyranny and failed economies to the unbelievers and doubters until they are convinced their misery and suffering is for a higher purpose, ie. enriching and aggrandizing the power of the ruling elites so their lives will be much better than before.
    Only through this conversion can we achieve the heaven on earth promised by the prophets and saints of socialism.
    Now get out there and convert the heathen from the perils and evils of capitalism, freedom and individualism.
    If you can do this before the end of the month, you will get your choice of a personalized autograph from Comrade Maduro, Sean Penn, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Michael Moore.
    Hurry while supply lasts!

  29. If a male can identify as a female and compete in female only sports, then this cross can identify as secular and occupy this plot of land. In the world of science where biology and Mother Nature are pretty straight forward (with very, very few outliers) people find 55 different sexes. In the world of ideology, where literally hundreds of thousands exist and have every imaginable cross over, it is decided that this cross is ONLY Christian religion and has no secular purpose at all. Can you feel the hate tonight?

  30. The case is not all about the bushes, of course.

    Are you sure about that? Because some commenters insist that all the worlds ills are the fault of the Bushes.

  31. From this article:

    In a brief urging the Supreme Court to ditch the highly subjective Lemon test, the Cato Institute argues that “the Establishment Clause was designed to prevent religious persecution, not to eradicate religious symbols from public life.” In other words, the clause prohibits the establishment of an official religion but not much else. The more Establishment Clause cases you read, the more appealing that approach looks.

    This is exactly correct.

    This cross is a memorial, but it is also art. The mere viewing of a cross doesn’t force you into following Jesus.

    1. So, what test do you propose to determine whether the state has, in fact, “established an official religion.”

      I’ll wait.

  32. I think the objections of those who don’t like the government sponsorship of a giant cross can perhaps be largely accommodated if the govt sells off the land to a veterans’ group for fair market value (the profits going to some kind of veteran-y program), then letting the veterans’ group decide how to maintain the property. They’ll probably keep the cross, which shouldn’t be so objectionable if it’s a private choice.

  33. I’m an agnostic. This is a big deal out of nothing. However, if it does go to the Supreme Court and get the o.k., I can reliably predict Alabama, Missouri and other heavily evangelical states will start sprouting crosses on public land. It won’t be state establishment of religion, just an attempt to make all the non-Christians uncomfortable enough to leave.

  34. This absurd analyses of whether something’s purpose is secular enough or not is not only open to complete subjectivity, but it sets up a false dichotomy that would make any legislation about anything impossible.

    Saying the government cannot make a law that is considered “religious” by some group of people is not what the first amendment says. Literally anything could be considered religious by someone. The sixth commandment forbids murder, but does that mean no law can be made prohibiting murder?

    The first amendment sets up the separation of church and state by preventing congress from making laws “respecting” religion. Clearly, this has to do with the legal preference of one religion over another by legislation that forces conformity to some officially recognized religion.

    The real question here should be congress’s involvement in this area. If the government has the duty of making grave stones and monuments recognizing the fallen (two arguably “religious” things) then a cross is a very logically associated aspect for a country whose predominate religion is Christianity.

  35. The core problem is that SCOTUS, blinded by the passions of atheists, has consistently and dishonestly misconstrued the establishment clause. That clause “prevents the government from respecting an establishment of religion”, which meant and should still mean that the government is prevented from establishing a state religion. This was written with specific reference to the confluence of church and state in England. It was not and never was intended to eliminate references to God or even Christianity in public life. Our Presidents are sworn in on the Bible. Congress has a chaplain. The Supreme Court begins its sessions with a prayer that concludes with “God save the United States and this Honorable Court!”

    So three bilious atheists passing the cross allegedly have their feelies “offended” by the presence of the cross and therefore challenge not simply the cross but the entire heritage of this country. That their suit has even gotten this far is an egregious affront to every American regardless of faith or creed.

  36. The problem is that everyone expects the Court to define the explicit meaning of symbolic representations, whether they are “obvious” or not.

    Would it make more sense for the Courts to stop engaging in this case-by-case nonsense, and apply a simpler “coercion” test? Seeing a giant cross might make you uncomfortable, but it doesn’t force you to give your money to the church, or worship to a government-approved god.

  37. Conservatives have taken over Cato. And Reason panders to conservatives and is intimidated by the comments. Sad.

    1. You complain, but what do you have to say about this case?

      Btw, Reason may be a lot of things, but it’s not conservative.

  38. I remember this place. My father took us there. Veteran of another war.

    http://tinyurl.com/Normandyneverforget

    On a rare occasion he wore his full dress uniform. I did not understand. My mother said shush to my questions.

    Today the president is in Vietnam. He is meeting with an adversary.

    One prayer right? Let there be peace, shalom among us.

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  41. The atheists argue that the cross should come down because it means, essentially, that govt is endorsing a religion, which is Christianity in this case. However, if all such “religious” items are to be removed from public lands then the govt is, in a de facto way, endorsing their “religion” that there is no God. In other words wiping out all religion endorses atheism.

    1. Right. This is something that almost no one talks about. Just banning religious symbols in public is not “secular.” It is an endorsement of a an alternate religion (ie. anti-religion).

      Religion is something that will always be wherever people are. Separating it from the state is done by restricting what the government becomes involved in.

    2. It’s clear you don’t actually understand athieism. Athieism does not posist that there is no God; it’s only position is that “I am not convinced of the existence of your God.” So no, preventing state sponsorship of religions does not endorse the idea that there are no gods.

      FYI, I don’t want the cross to come down. It’s already there, taking it down (and undoubtedly replacing it with a different monument) will just be an additional expense. I WOULD like the upkeep to be taken over by donations or private charities, but that’s a matter of fiscal responsibility not religion.

  42. Any interpretation of the Establishment Clause that requires some kind of state “coercion” essentially reads the Establishment Clause out of the First Amendment. We already have the Free Exercise Clause. If “establishment” is just about state coercion, then it isn’t doing any work the FEC isn’t doing.

    Personally, I don’t understand why any libertarian wouldn’t want a meaty, toothy EC. Christians are way too eager to misuse the levers of the state to expect that any ambiguity as to whether the government can directly fund a church or further their religious mission won’t be fully exploited by them.

    It starts with crosses in medians and monuments on courthouse land. Where do you think it stops?

  43. Where does it stop?

    Right here. Pickles in Missouri.

    https://tinyurl.com/Picklesin-Missouri

  44. I’m an athiest and I don’t really care about the monument being a Christian Cross, but how’s this for a solution: How about we stop spending taxpayer money on anything that references a religion? Nothing that mentions a god, afterlife, or the supernatural. Simple and unambigous;therefore, the government will never adopt it.

  45. As a truck driver, I come across a lot of giant crosses next to the highway. Most of them are in pretty bad taste, looking like they were made with aluminum siding, or just metal framework. They’re an eyesore, and intentionally in your face. This one, at least, isn’t ugly AF. One wonders, though, why only Christian soldiers are being honored.

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