Tuesday, August 24, 2010

But It's a Secular Symbol...

This is a new tactic for Christians wanting to avoid any entanglement with the whole Establishment Clause.
ALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has overturned a decision that allowed the display of roadside crosses in honor of Utah Highway Patrol troopers who have fallen in the line of duty.
The 10th Circuit Court also ordered Judge David Sam to order the crosses removed. Sam ruled in favor of the UHP crosses in November of 2007, saying the crosses did not represent a religious symbol, but a proper memorial.
The Utah Attorney General was trying to argue that the cross is a secular symbol and therefore, state sponsorship of the memorial was appropriate.  This is one of those situations where sensitivity clashes with law.  I have absolutely no issue whatsoever with a memorial to fallen officers.  They deserve a memorial to be recognized.  As part of their oath, they pledge to uphold the Constitution of the United States.  I think there are plenty of ways to memorialize these officers without a 12-foot cross.  There can be a religious symbol placed next to the name of the fallen soldier, whether they be Christian, Jewish, or something else.  That puts this memorial into the same category of Arlington National Cemetery or any other government sponsored cemetery where there is a choice of religious symbols offered to associate the fallen with the religion of their choice.  That is appropriate.

This is the second recent example.  There was another case in Southern California pertaining to a cross/memorial on public land.  In this case, the cross was placed there 76-years ago as part of a memorial for World War I veterans.  Anthony Kennedy wrote the lead opinion in which he said,
"Private citizens put the cross on Sunrise Rock to commemorate American servicemen who had died in World War I," Kennedy wrote. "Although certainly a Christian symbol, the cross was not emplaced on Sunrise Rock to promote a Christian message."
This is not a surprising ruling from Kennedy.  The case was basically sent back to the lower court for resolution.  Although I believe that this particular cross is a violation of church/state separation, I almost feel that this one should grandfathered in at this point.  It was placed by private citizens and it went unhindered for a very long time.  There are bigger battles to be won.  My biggest issue here was that once again, it is trying to be argued that the cross is a secular symbol and not a religious one.  I don't really understand how a cross does not promote a Christian message.  If the Christians really want to devalue their most sacred symbol, then maybe I shouldn't argue it.  However, their intentions are too sinister to not oppose it.

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