Sunday, October 18, 2009

Should It Stay Or Should It Go?

Recently, I got an email from my old friend, C., with a link to an article at CNN. The article was, "High Court To Decide If War Memorial Violates the Constitution." It being Sunday and all, I thought this might be a good time to discuss this. If you are unfamiliar with the case, the following video sums it up well:



This video provides some of the reasons the Memorial Cross should go from the ACLU's perspective:



Hard to believe this is all the result of just one person, isn't it? All the way to the Supreme Court? And yet, that is the case. Arguments were heard on Wednesday. I received this in an email from the ACLU on this topic:
Last week, the Supreme Court heard argument in Salazar v. Buono, an establishment clause challenge to the federal government’s display of a Latin cross in the Mojave National Preserve.

The Court’s questions focused largely on esoteric procedural doctrine, and while it’s always risky to predict the outcome of a case based on an oral argument, it seems unlikely the Court will rule on the broader constitutional issues in the case -- namely, whether the plaintiff, a devout Catholic and former National Park Service employee, had standing to challenge the display of the cross; and whether, before it tried to transfer the cross to a private party, the government violated the First Amendment by displaying the sectarian symbol on federal land.

While the Supreme Court ultimately may pass on the loftier constitutional questions in this case, Wednesday’s argument had some dramatic moments. In the most heated exchange of the morning, Justice Antonin Scalia peppered Peter Eliasberg, the ACLU attorney arguing for the plaintiff, with questions about the significance of the cross. Justice Scalia bristled at Eliasberg’s suggestion that a World War I memorial featuring only a Christian cross sends a message of exclusion and religious favoritism, asking, "The cross doesn’t honor non-Christians who fought in the war?" After Eliasberg responded that the cross "is the predominant symbol of Christianity," Justice Scalia pushed back, suggesting that there was no constitutional problem with the display because "the cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of the dead." Eliasberg resisted, explaining that "the cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of Christians." "I have been in Jewish cemeteries," continued Eliasberg, the son of a Jewish World War II Navy veteran. "There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew."

The notion that a war memorial featuring a stand-alone Latin cross serves to honor only Christian war dead -- a notion Justice Scalia called "outrageous" -- was echoed in a series of amicus briefs filed in the case by various veterans groups.

However the Buono case is resolved, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to convince many non-Christian veterans that an isolated, freestanding cross expressly recognizes their service to the country. And Congress’s designation of the Mojave cross as one of only 49 national memorials (and the only one commemorating World War I), joining such iconic symbols as the Washington Monument and Mount Rushmore, only compounds the problem. As one retired Army brigadier general recently put it, "The cross is unquestionably a sectarian religious symbol that, as a congressionally designated national memorial to veterans, would convey the message that the military values the sacrifices of Christian war dead over those of service members belonging to other faiths."

Hmmm. Interesting take there on the non-Christian veterans. I would love to hear what those veterans think about this (and I say that as someone who isn't a Christian, either. Not that I don't appreciate who Jesus was, or his words of peace and love. I grew up as a devout Christian, actually, an very much appreciate the message of Jesus. But enough about me.).

The decision of the Supreme Court will surely have long reaching effects. So, what do you think - should the Memorial Cross stay, or should it go?

4 comments:

Mary Ellen said...

Personally, I think it should stay,for this reason. I don't think the founders of our country wanted to ban all signs of religious artifacts. I can understand not wanting to have a religion that is forced upon us by our government, but I also believe that religion or religious artifacts should be forced to go into hiding, either, because that in itself is a form of religious persecution.

It saddens me that those who are not religious are forcing their hatred for religion on everyone.

Sticky subject, I know...

SFIndie said...

I may not be a veteran, but I am Jewish, and I think the memorial should stay. I don't view it as a religious symbol; to me, it's a symbol that has for many many years been used to mark a fallen soldier. Does it have its origins in religion? Likely yes. But it's interesting that in all the years that memorial has been standing, no Jew or Muslim or Atheist or Agnostic or anyone else I've left out has complained.

The website to support the memorial staying is http://www.donttearmedown.com/.

On the website is a link to a video that brought tears to my eyes: event:http://bit.ly/WRqUW

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Hey, ME -

That is a really interesting perspective - I hadn't thought of it quite like that. Thank you.

It is ironic to me that the lone person who started this whole thing is actually a Roman Catholic.

And it just begs the question - why did it bother him so? As I understand it, it is in a VERY remote area, and sometimes a symbol is more than the symbol itself. In this case, it doesn't just stand for Christian veterans, but to recognize the sacrifice of ALL veterans.

Know what I mean?

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

SF, thank you for your perspective. I try to think how I would feel if I came upon it, but heck - I've seen Arlington Cemetery, and other war memorials. I know some of those had crosses. I think my assumption was simply the acknowledgment that the person had died in service to the country, and it's like a shorthand way of recognizing their sacrifice and saying a prayer, if that makes sense?

THANK YOU for that video (and it brought tears to my eyes, too). I know I'll be using it soon...

Thanks for the thoughtful comments, ME and SF!