Saturday, June 13, 2009

Does It Really Represent Them?

aclu, war, memorial, vietnam, christian, atheism, atheist, jesus, cross, soldiers, honor, memorial

The ACLU is the ultimate boogeyman for conservatives of all stripes, but no one hates the ACLU more than fundys. The ACLU is, to them, the army of darkness attempting to stamp Christianity out entirely, through the clever removal of religious displays on public property. (You just can't believe unless everyone else does, too, apparently.)

Normally I ignore this whingeing from the fundys, because it's asinine, but this case pissed me off.

You see, there is a large war memorial out in the Mojave Desert. I have no problem with war memorials or honoring the sacrifices of soldiers, but that's not what this is about. The war memorial is a giant cross. That's it. A really big, white cross on a hill.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel for TMLC, said, “Through our brief and the compelling stories of the war heroes we represent, we want the court to feel the devastating impact removing crosses will have on those who have sacrificed so much for this country.”
“Since the beginning of America,” Mr. Thompson continued, “crosses have been used to memorialize our fallen war veterans and to give solace to their families and comrades.

Ironically, the Ninth Circuit used the very constitution these veterans defended with their lives to order the destruction of the memory of their heroic sacrifices. Sadly, the cross in the Mojave Desert is currently covered from view until the appeal is resolved.”

Who does a cross honor? It's not soldiers. A cross honors Jesus. One might make the argument that a cross honors Christian soldiers, but I'm not sure I accept that. Even assuming a giant cross honors Christian soldiers, are all US soldiers- and surely you agree that all US soldiers deserve honoring- Christian? No. So, what about those other soldiers? Why should we exclude them from war memorials? Why shouldn't they be honored?

The reason this pisses me off is the picture above. That woman is hugging the grave of her son, a US soldier who died in combat. He was a US soldier, and a Muslim. She's hugging the grave because that's all she has left of her son. Is her son's sacrifice less because he wasn't Christian? Is her suffering less because her dead son wasn't Christian? Should we honor her dead son's- and all the other nonchristians- sacrifice less because he wasn't Christian?

No. We should honor all the soldiers, and all their families. We should not exclude the atheists and the Mulisms and the Jews and all the rest. Their sacrifice means as much as anyone else's. We don't need to praise Jesus to remember our falllen soldiers. The Vietnam War Memorial is a beautiful, secular tribute to those who died in the Vietnam War. It acknowledges everyone equally, and excludes no one. That's what we should be supporting for our fallen soldiers. Jesus has plenty of tributes already, he doesn't need another at the expense of soldiers who sacrificed their lives for us.


  1. Excellent post. This thing makes me gag, too, but it's complicated. The monument belongs to the VFW,who get no federal funding, and they own the land its on so its private property.
    OTOH, VFW has a congressional sanction, which is an official endorsement by the government, so....?

    R. Thompson, of course, is a fuckwit.

  2. The ACLU is a useful organization to have around. They do excellent work defending all sorts of people and cases which would otherwise not be defended. I don't always agree with their interpretation of rights, but I recognize the value of having an ACLU.

    However, this case is one that pisses me off, but in the opposite way that it pisses you off. This is a situation where ACLU action is completely unnecessary and gives credence to those who think that the organization is anti-religious.

    I could see their objection to a new monument that was a big white cross. I'd object to it myself. This country has become more secular over the years, and we certainly don't need any more fusion between Christianity and the state. And I agree that something like the Vietnam War Memorial is a better way to go.

    But unless I read the case incorrectly, this cross has been there since 1934. What is the point of trying to remove a symbol that has stood for so long and is apparently appreciated by the people that care about it? This type of action is a completely counterproductive waste of time by the ACLU. There aren't enough people out there whose rights have been trampled on and need help, that they need to spend time and resources fighting to remove old war memorials?

  3. We had a similar situation in my community. A large white cross was situated on the midtown butte. The first time it was declared unconstitutional and ordered removed from public property it was declared a war memorial and allowed to remain. Some years later it was challenged again and ordered off public property. The memorial was replaced by a flag and plaque The cross was moved to private land. I was ambivelant on the issue. I was aware of the constitutional problems and supported the decision but had no personal problem with the cross as a memorial. I thought the eventual settlement was a good one. On private land there is no constitutional issue with a giant cross as a war memoprial or religious idol. People are free to worship it as they choose. Keeping it on public land is an establishment violation.

    In the case you are discussing I suppose it depends on whether the cross is private or public. If private it doesn't really matter if it is offensive or not. If public it doesn't matter what the good intentions may be it needs to go.

  4. while i agree that private land = not my issue:

    i want to discuss just a little about WHY the ACLU is going after "frivilous" lawsuits like this.

    i periodically, perhaps once a month, recieve an email. this email, never from the same person, has at least thus far always been from a family member. and i've been getting some form of this email for over 5 years now (beause i got at least 4 before Pete and i got together EXACTLY 5 years and 3 weeks ago ;) )

    the email essentially is a tantrum being thrown that new "residents" of Arlington Cemetary or other military cemetaries CAN NOT have Crosses on their headstones any more.
    that's all it is. a rant about "how our religious freedoms are being taken away by a secular government" (and sometimes an accusation that the government works for/with Satan)

    to each and EVERY email i have sent the same reply:
    "Until *my* Holy Symbol may be attached to *my* gravestone, until Muslims and Jews and Hindu and Buddhists and Taoists and EVERYONE ELSE can have *their* Holy Symbols, no, i DO NOT think that people should be allowed to have Crosses on their NEW gravestones. i'm not going to go and deface the old, but i am going to stop the new. it is religious discrimination *AND* religious persecution to allow an expression of Christian faith while denying the faiths of all the *other* dead-for-our-country soldiers. *OUR* country - ALL Faiths."

    everytime someone tries to stop a NEW religious icon from going up, the OLD ones are used to validate placement of NEW. that's why the ACLU goes out on these mini-crusade type things - arguably, ANY agency or orginization that either A)recieves support or B)receives official recognition NEVER had the right to put up *ANY* religious imagery. but it really isn't so much about getting rid of old icons - it's about preventing NEW ones. its just that the old are continuously used as justification for new.


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