A Cross to Bear

Last week, the ACLU filed a brief in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of our clients, the Jewish War Veterans of America, against the City of San Diego in our Soledad Cross case. We lost the first go-round with this case in district court, when Judge Larry Burns ruled — erroneously, we believe — that the cross is not a religious symbol, and is therefore not unconstitutionally sitting on a federally war memorial. Burns said in his decision that the cross "communicates the primarily nonreligious messages of military service, death and sacrifice.”

We're scratching our heads too. Many Christians might be offended that a federal judge is saying that one of the principal symbols — for many the ultimate symbol — of their religion is "not religious."

In our brief, we argue that allowing a Christian cross — namely a Latin cross which actually, technically represents only a percentage of Christians — to sit on government-owned property is a violation of the First Amendment's establishment clause (the part that states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…").

Back in September, the L.A. Times queried religious leaders whether or not they agreed with Burns' decision that a cross was not a religious symbol. We agree with Varun Soni, a Hindu, lawyer and dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California, who told the Times:

[M]any non-Christian faith practitioners in the U.S. do not feel that the cross culturally represents them as Americans, regardless of its context or venue…I believe…the Mount Soledad case… should now be analyzed through interfaith and multi-faith lenses.

This is what we ask the 9th Circuit to do. Put yourself in the shoes of a non-Christian, and see the Soledad cross for what it is — a symbol of Christianity standing on taxpayer-funded land in violation of the First Amendment — and nothing else.

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Derek

I love this article because it awoken me to how other people feel! I now see that people who aren't Christians are really offended by this. Well guess what, I am a Christian and if the ACLU will take a case to court protecting those who are "offended" by having a cross on a military cemetary, then maybe they can represent me when I sue San Diego for "emotional trauma" because it offends me that you would take those crosses out of the ground. My family members have spilled their blood and laid down their lives for this great country, so how you can go and dishonor them and all of the other people who have paid the same price is treason! The First Ammendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." and they shouldn't, but all of the six veterans who've made it through wars,in my family, want to be burried on a military burial ground WITH A CROSS for a headstone and how dare anybody deny them that right. If you were in any other country you wouldn't be able to express your views on this website so I am very proud of the freedoms that we as Americans have and you should be too. America is the greatest country in the world and it is perfectly OK to say so, and do you know why we are? because the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, that's why. So don't you dare think for one second that the crosses in military cemetary's are "unconstitutional" or "immoral" and don't dare say that they are "offensive", because the people underneath those crosses deserve much more respect than that. If you don't think that Christianity has the biggest influence in America then i ask you this: in what type of building were the two lanterns hung that brodcast the message to Paul Revere that the British were coming by sea? And since I know their is someone reading this who is so inept that they don't know the answer, it was a churh: a Christian Church, a place where people worshiped Jesus the Son of God who was hung on a.....CROSS!

roald

Derek - Please read the article in the link to understand what the lawsuit is all about. To save you a little time, it is not about prohibiting crosses on headstones.

The lanterns were hung in the church because it was the highest structure in the area. What does that have to do with anything?

Anonymous

you guys have forgotton the one truth; you reap what you sow.

roald

Anon - I certainly hope that the ACLU reaps what it has sown, a country in which the US Constitution and accompanying Bill of Rights is upheld for all people.

Steve

The ACLU has it all wrong! I fail to see how "congress made a law respecting an establishment of religion" but I can definately see how this organization wants to " prohibit the free exercise therof"! Remember what ACLU founder Rodger Baldwin is quoated as saying: ".......Communism is the goal"

roald

Steve , while this situation is not as clear as a government proclamation that the Seventh Avenue Baptists Church is now the official religion of the United States, the donation of government-owner land for the erection of a symbol of a single religion could be construed as supporting the establishment of that religion. Had the land been privately held, the situation would be different.

I personally would be uncomfortable visiting the cemetery, but would respect the rights of those who are comforted.

Reflect how you would feel if government land were used to erect a symbol of another religion.

Kurt

In our brief, we argue that allowing a Christian cross — namely a Latin cross which actually, technically represents only a percentage of Christians — to sit on government-owned property is a violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause (the part that states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…").

Quoted from the article.

How does the cross on Government land "establish" a religion? I can see that it might acknowledge that the religion exists, but does not establish anything. Has this same cemetery refused to allow other symbols?

Does the ACLU fight to have other religious symbols removed from government owned places? Have the Jewish symbols been removed from the Holocaust museum in DC? I doubt that the ACLU has challenged these symbols being there. (and the ACLU should not). How about schools who erect special areas where Muslims can wash their feet and pray? Who from the ACLU is handling the case to remove these?

Realizer

Thanks, Steve. The "freedom FROM religion" zealots often like to pretend the free exercise clause doesn't exist.

@roald: The fact that it is federally owned land is a logical crutch for the ACLU. Do you really believe that the ACLU would defend an individual's decision to retain the cross against the likes of Paulson if the federal government chose to sell the land?

Hypothetical:

Imagine a cemetary (owned and maintained as a historical treasure by a city of your choosing in New England) contains the graves of every man who signed the US Constitution. Now, imagine that this cemetary has a 100 foot cross standing amidst the graves in the center of the property visible by nearly every location within the city. Finally, imagine that the federal government purchases the land from this city.

Please explain why the cross SHOULD or SHOULD NOT be removed from this federally owned property.

Kent

Gotta love it, ACLU, American Communist Lawyer's Union. It's pathetic that our young men and women have given their lives to protect scum like you.

Former Soldier

I Proudly Served and Fought for your rights and freedoms when I was a soldier. I am disgusted that you would dishonor my fallen commrads who also protected your rights and freedoms.What is wrong with you people? Do you not have any respect for the men and women who give their lives so you can run around and protest them and any of their symbols. I am now ashamed that I was willing to give my life for such an ungrateful country. Perhaps if you could walk a mile in a soldiers shoes you might have some respect.

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