Opinion

Christians and Jews agree: The Bladensburg Cross is no secular symbol

The 40-foot Peace Cross stands at an intersection in Bladensburg, Md., northeast of Washington. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) — Tomorrow (Feb. 27), for the first time in history, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case asking whether the government can maintain a cross on government property. The justices will consider the government’s claim that a massive 40-foot Latin cross, maintained in the center of a major intersection, is simply a secular monument.

That claim, of course, not only defies common sense, it is offensive to many who take religion seriously. In a joint brief on behalf of Jews and Christians from a variety of denominations, we ask the court to reject this absurd claim.

Our agreement does not indicate a shared veneration of the cross. While we value interfaith dialogue and work toward the common good, we have not abandoned our specific religions for universalism. We respect religious differences and expect the government to do so as well.

Despite our theological differences and experiences (or perhaps because of them), we expect government neutrality between religious teachings. We see danger in any political hijacking of religion.

The cross symbolizes God’s promise of everlasting life – the most prominent teaching of Christianity – offered through the life, death on a cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This story is a powerful one. It inspires Christian evangelism in various forms. It is not taught in Judaism, nor in other religions, and the government should take no position on it. The government’s sponsorship of the cross sends a message of favoritism to Christians and exclusion to non-Christians.

Claiming the Latin cross is merely a “cross-shaped” memorial generically honoring all war dead doesn’t fix the problem. In fact, it makes it worse. The cross is used to honor the dead because it evokes Christian teachings about eternal life. To apply such teachings to veterans who did not choose it violates the fundamental aspect of religious liberty.

The court should uphold the First Amendment principle that government must avoid taking positions on religious truth or giving preference to one religion over another. It should reject the patently false argument of the government and its supporters in this case that the cross is nothing more than a benign and universal symbol for sacrifice.

Like other religion cases, this dispute will invite arguments about how best to define the relationship between religion and government. Some will claim – wrongly – that our position somehow amounts to hostility toward religion. Nothing could be further from the truth. Religion is fundamental to who we are, and our religious differences should be respected. The separation of religion and government protects our religious liberty. The government’s offensive arguments obfuscating the meaning of the cross in this case prove our point.

A ruling against the government in this case does not mean crosses cannot be displayed on any government property. Religious messages in government-owned cemeteries that reflect the identity and beliefs of the individuals buried there are plainly constitutional. Crosses on individual gravestones are not implicated by this case. There are many ways our government does and should honor veterans without damage to religious liberty.

Religious voices must continue to advocate for the separation of church and state. We know that religious communities benefit from the government’s fundamental obligation to avoid taking positions on purely religious matters. The First Amendment protects religious diversity and promotes peace despite our differences. The court should reject government actions that divide citizens according to religion, including any attempt to secularize sacred symbols under the false pretense of honoring veterans.

(Holly Hollman is the general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Marc Stern is the general counsel of the American Jewish Committee. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)

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  • The authors’ contention that “The cross symbolizes God’s promise of everlasting life – the most prominent teaching of Christianity – offered through the life, death on a cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” in this context is remarkably off-base.

    That is what it would mean if it were erected at front of a Baptist Church.

    It is unlikely that those that built the monument, and the government that accepted it, had that in mind.

  • https://thehumanist.com/news/national/why-we-sued-the-city-of-bladensburg-over-a-40-foot-cross

    In 1918, the Prince George’s County Memorial Committee began to raise funds to construct the cross. Contributors signed the following pledge: “We, the citizens of Maryland, trusting in God, the Supreme Ruler of the universe, pledge faith in our brothers who gave their all in the world war to make the world safe for democracy. Their mortal bodies have turned to dust, but their spirit lives to guide us through life in the way of godliness, justice and liberty. With our motto, ‘One God, One Country and one Flag,’ we contribute to this memorial cross commemorating the memory of those who have not died in vain.”

    The Bladensburg cross was formally dedicated on July 12, 1925. As part of the dedication ceremonies, Representative Stephen W. Gambrill of the Fifth Maryland District delivered the dedication address, in which he stated: “You men of Prince Georges County fought for the sacred right of all to live in peace and security and by the token of this cross, symbolic of Calvary, let us keep fresh the memory of our boys who died for a righteous cause.”1 An invocation was given by Rev. A.J. Carey, pastor of St. Jerome’s Catholic Church. Rev. B.P. Robertson, pastor of the First Baptist Church pronounced a benediction.

  • There is no way the current SCOTUS will rule against this monument. The AHA was foolish to file this case. SCOTUS will most likely set a precedent that is exactly the opposite of what AHA was trying to accomplish and make matters worse (from a secular perspective).

  • Which is more offensive in the picture, the monument or the flag? The Cross is older than the flag and the cross represents hundreds of millions more people than this flag, or any flag in the world, ever will. This brings us to this moment in time, which is the time that mankind’s fate is sealed by the force that is behind the Cross.

    If there is no Power behind the Cross, then the SCOTUS would have no Power, and the flag would have no Power. There is a Power behind the Cross that seals the fate of Man. This controversy is not about a monument and it is not about a flag; this controversy is about the time when mankind’s Fate: is sealed by death.

    The flag and the monument represent the state of mankind, at the moment of death. What state are you in?

  • They are really creating a strawman.
    1. It isn’t a memorial for all the dead from WWI, but for the 49 dead from their county who were all Christian. This even undoes their own logic, as they claim that such sectarian monuments are exempt from first amendment considerations.

    2. Despite what the article implies, the government did not build the monument, but took it later through eminent domain for the secular purpose of a road project. How much the government pays to maintain the monument (if anything) isn’t claimed in the article either.

    I will give the authors that they are right about the meaning of the cross. But as they themselves point out, that does not inherently cause problem.

  • Excellent article by two long time defenders of religious liberty and our constitutional principle of church-state separation.

  • how does context change, what we know was erected as a religious cross to remember the local war dead, into a secular memorial ?

  • Since it’s a sectarian symbol and meant as one, churches can pay for its repair and upkeep. War memorials for groups are typically non religious in nature.

  • The context here was a sectarian symbol erected by a private entity originally.

    Private entities can pay for its repair and upkeep as well. The money spent in trying to pass the buck to taxpayers would have covered it.

  • Here is hoping the Supreme Court will recognize that the Cross and the U.S. Flag are not expressive of each other. Each has its own place in the world. Remember, Jesus said to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. He recognized a separation. We need to do that, too, out of respect for those who do not think a Christian Cross is symbolic of the civil government of this nation.

  • So the best solution is give the cross back to the churches and Christian groups who sponsored it or want it kept. It was built with private money, it can go back to private property.

  • I’m as resolute about the separation of church and state as anyone, but I also think there should be a certain gentleness when it comes to historical monuments. Yes, they represent social sensibilities that have shifted, but they are also part of the fabric of our nation. They have a historical significance that can’t be measured and one that we risk removing to our detriment.

    What we build going forward is one thing. Erasing the past is something else.

  • As the article admits, sectarian symbols are generally exempt where they reflect the faith of those being remembered.

    If you don’t have a problem with the Argonne Cross or Canadian Cross in Arlington, then this is fine as well.

  • Actually it doesn’t.
    “Claiming the Latin cross is merely a “cross-shaped” memorial generically honoring all war dead doesn’t fix the problem. In fact, it makes it worse. The cross is used to honor the dead because it evokes Christian teachings about eternal life.”

    Is there an effort to soak taxpayers for the upkeep of the Argonne Cross or Canadian Cross?
    What prompted this issue is the fact that the Bladensburg Cross is crumbling and there is a need to raise taxes to fund its repair.

  • If that is an argument proponents of the cross make, then it is a weak one. So far, I haven’t seen anyone make the argument about it being a generalized memorial.

    “A ruling against the government in this case does not mean crosses cannot be displayed on any government property. Religious messages in government-owned cemeteries that reflect the identity and beliefs of the individuals buried there are plainly constitutional. Crosses on individual gravestones are not implicated by this case. There are many ways our government does and should honor veterans without damage to religious liberty.”

    No where in the article does it say that the Bladensburg Cross is crumbling or an extravagant tax burden. I haven’t seen that argument made in any news article, not even ones by the plaintiffs or their lawyers. Do you have any citation for this?

  • If you want to call it secular, then use examples of secular monuments to demonstrate it is so. This is not an example of one.

    “No where in the article does it say that the Bladensburg Cross is crumbling or an extravagant tax burden.”
    Nope. It is noted in other sources
    https://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/431688-cross-shaped-memorial-pulls-supreme-court-into-church-state-dispute
    “the cross — now crumbling and in need of $100,000 in repairs”

    https://americanhumanist.org/honorthemall/faqs/
    “Due to the government’s neglect and failure to make necessary repairs, as well as the commercial and traffic pollutants and a complex array of other variable stresses caused by its location, the cross is already falling down on its own. “

  • I don’t know if you misquoted or if the article updated, but the Hill article says: “But the appeals court didn’t order the cross — now crumbling and in need of repairs — to be demolished.” No mention of a price tag. Also no collaboration on the state of the cross.

    The same goes for the citation-less and clearly biased “facts” page by the AHA.

  • A little background will put this article in perspective.

    Holly Hollman is the general counsel and associate executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

    https://bjconline.org/k-hollyn-hollman/

    Before one forms an impression that this involves the largest Baptist denomination in the USA standing up for the rights of religion and people with religious beliefs it is helpful to take a look at the makeup of organizations for which the Baptist Joint Committee stands:

    https://bjconline.org/supporting-bodies/

    Alliance of Baptists – 65,000 members

    Formed in 1987 by liberal individuals and congregations separating from the Southern Baptist Convention. Many of its congregations are also in fellowship with the United Church of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

    Converge – 150-200,000 members

    Formerly the Swedish Baptist General Conference which arose out of Swedish Pietist congregations.

    Religious Liberty Council

    This is the individual donor organization of the Baptist Joint Committee, so the membership is included in the parent organization.

    What does the the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty do in the legal arena?

    It provides an example of the brief it filed in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case:

    https://bjconline.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Masterpiece-Cakeshop-brief-General-Synod-of-UCC-BJC-Episcopal-Church-ELCA-CTS.pdf

    jointly with the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – three of the most uber liberal churches in the USA.

    The brief misstates the facts, e.g. (emphasis added) “(r)espondents Mullins and Craig sought only to purchase from petitioners a cake …”, disregards entirely the Petitioners’ free speech rights, and comes down hard in favor of the State of Colorado’s jackboot on the neck of Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop.

    With “friends” like that of religious liberty, it doesn’t need enemies.

    Marc Stern, counsel for the American Jewish Committee since leaving as counsel of the American Jewish Congress in 2010, represents the Reform Judaism version of much the same thing. A frequent speaker at Americans United for Separation of Church and State functions, as is Ms. Hollman, he is strong proponent of the now discredited “wall of separation between church and state”.

  • Too bad the humanist gang is totally killing their own capital & goodwill with the residents of that county. Gotta pick one’s battles these days.

    National Public Radio said this morning that the humanists may possibly even lose the Supremes on this one. Tsk tsk.

  • From approximately 1930 back to the Revolution crosses were standard fare for memorials.

    Over the years I have had the chance to tour American overseas cemeteries and they, particularly the WWI cemeteries, are absolutely rife with religious symbolism – including crosses.

    The change in context is happening now as litigious individuals with zany ideas and objections are attempting to rally and sue their way through the United States to remove anything that they find objectionable.

    These 21st century Luddites are the ones attempting context changing.

  • This monument is nearly 100 years old.

    The fact that it just now bothers anyone makes it clear where the problem lies.

  • Other than facts presented in the article and even the claims of those who support the cross. The whole reason for the issue is the proposed tax hike to cover its repair. The desire to tramp stamp the government for Christianity was greater then the concern for the maintenance of the cross. Private donations could have covered it.

  • The best solution is to tell those suing “get over it”, and based on the oral arguments reported at the SCOTUS that looks like what will happen.

  • The people most supportive of this cross have zero concern for its maintenance and upkeep and want to soak taxpayers for it. If it is secular, then there should be no objection to demolishing it to prevent traffic safety issues. If it is religious, then let churches pay for the upkeep.

  • How about it? Individual markers show religion if the deceased but not the entire thing.

    In fact, many religions are represented there.

    Inclusion always works.

    The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is it’s centerpiece and as obviously secular as it comes.

  • See my responses to tiredcarholic. I linked to sources about it crumbling and proposed use of tax dollars.

  • Why do you object to upholding first amendment principles?

    Why do you hate religious freedom?

    Your God doesn’t need my cash.

  • Last year a Montana judge ruled that a statue of Jesus Christ himself is no longer seen as a religious figure since the statue is a popular site for skiers to congregate for photos. Locals like to dress Him up with ski hats and poles, and occasionally hide behind to get a tug or take a leak.

    Since Jesus is now the object of derision, He gets to stay, much to the delight of Christians, who maintained through out that He served as a “war” memorial. A Phyrric victory at best, for Christians.

    I suspect that if drunks, or gays, or drunk gays, were to co-opt the Bladensburg Cross as a meeting-place for debauchery, there might be a public outcry for its removal.

    Absent that, I dream of renting a D-9 Cat…

  • This isn’t upholding First Amendment principles, it’s offending the memory of soldiers who died in WWI.

  • Of course it is. Its is demanding government financial endorsement of Christianity. Establishment of religion. Putting up a cross to honor them rather than a secular symbol of the nation appropriated their sacrifice in an untoward manner.

  • So far, the only ones alleging any traffic safety issues are the AHA. I’ve yet to see any statement from the local authorities or engineers.

    Just being secular or religious does not entail requiring its demolition.

  • the context change has been occurring for decades now . it is not the courts doing it but as hindsight . america has become a more religiously and non religiously complex nation . change is occurring as people demand it .

    your comment above seems to verify my previous comment . the religious symbols are there . admitting the obvious that the bradenburg calvary cross is a religious symbol is inconvenient to those now defending its existence on public land. taking public money for its upkeep . thus those who want to preserve a religious symbol down play any christian meaning and stress only that it is a memorial to men of world war i .

    most of the crosses in military cemeteries here and above are the grave markers of those buried . if they were christian then there is nothing improper in their presence . if they were not, then the crosses should be replace with an emblem of their faith or ideology .

  • It is special interests who, in lieu of cooperating with their fellow citizens, have spent the last three decades litigating any and every thing which annoys them.

    Unfortunately an activist SCOTUS encouraged that sort of nonsense – you never knew when you might lucky and score a big one.

    The current SCOTUS will put this one to bed, and make it more difficult for splinter groups to raise this sort of silliness again.

  • I read a report that the liberals on the court couldn’t even look at a picture of the cross. They started to tremble and froth at the mouth.

  • The state should cede back the land they took from the original monument footprint. Then it becomes private property and is not an issue.

  • Yes! You and AOC are for raising taxes. I’m with you on this one.
    Let’s raise taxes to repair this hugely important symbol of Christianity and Americanism.
    Plate it with gold so all the liberals shrivel up as the sun reflects off it each morning.

  • I agree that monuments ought not to be removed without thought and consideration. However, as society changes, it seems to me that it’s appropriate to evaluate why certain monuments were erected and what is the meaning behind them. I think that it’s, at times, appropriate to move, or even remove, certain monuments.

  • The American cemeteries overseas have much more religious symbolism.

    The reason why Arlington is a bit sparse has nothing to do with church-state issues.

    Arlington is run by the United States Department of the Army, and they try to do it on the cheap where they can.

    Religious symbolism is expensive.

    The cemeteries overseas are run by an independent commission, originally set up after WWI and initially run under John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing who was the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) World War I.

    Grave markers are crosses or other appropriate religious symbols, altars, crosses, and other religious symbols are prominent, and they are meticulously maintained

  • You’re about 94 years too late to complain.
    The most relevant law is probably Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668 (1984), in which the Court ruled on a challenge to Pawtucket, Rhode Island’s annual Christmas display in the city’s shopping district, consisting of a Santa Claus house, a Christmas tree, a banner reading “Season’s Greetings,” and a crèche.

    The Court ruled that the crèche was a passive representation of religion and that there was “insufficient evidence to establish that the inclusion of the crèche is a purposeful or surreptitious effort to express some kind of subtle governmental advocacy of a particular religious” view. They also stated that the Constitution “affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any.”

  • perhaps you are thinking of the special interest law firm that brought jack phillips and his masterpiece cakeshop suit to the supreme court ?

    there is little that gets to the supreme court that does not have special interest groups behind it

    …unless it is a suit from a major corporation or one of the .01 of the 1% suing .

    SCOTUS has been accepting this type of suit since the beginning of this republic .

    and it ain’t goin’ away . if it did, both you, conservative, and i, lefty, would lose any chance of ever be heard at the high court . [unless of course you are a lot lot lot richer than i am] .

  • The passage you quote says it all – The purpose of the “Calvary Cross” memorial, (named that to resemble the likeness of the Cross of Calvary, as described in the Bible), is a stand-alone, 40-foot tall religious symbol that is strikingly prominent, and whose original purpose was to honor only Christian fallen soldiers from the local area. Taxpayer money is supporting the maintenance of the cross, the public land it sits on, and the lighting of the cross at night. This 40-foot tall advertisement for Christianity is blatantly unconstitutional.

  • Art:

    You’re about 94 years too late to complain.

    I’m not aware of a statute of limitations regarding Establishment Clause or citizen religious rights violations.

  • More accurately, its original purpose was Gold Star mothers honoring their hero sons, all of whom happened to be Christian.

    Another poster provided the most probable legal analysis:

    https://disqus.com/home/discussion/religionnews/christians_and_jews_agree_the_bladensburg_cross_is_no_secular_symbol/#comment-4357487289

    The petitioners come off as a group of Madalyn Murray O’Hair wannabes who attempted to disguise their contempt for all things religious under the pretext of an imaginary “wall of separation between church and state”.

  • I am sure if the 49 mothers of dead hero sons were still alive they could explain better than anyone else why you are incorrect.

  • Bill Paca: Referencing a case that isn’t analogous and trying an appeal to tradition fallacy doesn’t make a valid point.

  • Back in those simpler days the involvement of religious leaders in community affairs was not suspect.

    By the time Representative Gambrill, a politician no doubt hoping to be reelected, gave his dedication all the meaning and purpose of the monument was already baked into it.

    Nothing he said was relevant for the upcoming SCOTUS decision.

    The base of the cross displays the words “valor,” “endurance,” “courage,” and “devotion.”

    The base also includes a bronze tablet listing the names of 49 men from Prince George’s County’s who died during the war, and a quote from Woodrow Wilson:

    “The right is more precious than peace. We shall fight for the things we have always carried nearest our hearts. To such a task we dedicate our lives.”

    Building it in the shape of a cross, common among WWI memorials, does not “establish that the inclusion of the crèche is a purposeful or surreptitious effort to express some kind of subtle governmental advocacy of a particular religious” view.

  • Bill Paca: A temporary display mixed in with other displays is different from a permanent monument that is overtly sectarian, and the temporary creche hasn’t cost tax payers thousands of dollars.

  • Bill Paca: Your efforts to avoid recognizing a purposeful or accidental government endorsement of a religion doesn’t mean there isn’t a violation.

  • Other than being cross-shaped it is not overtly sectarian.

    Every single word on it is non-sectarian.

    If said something like “Praise Jesus!” on it you might be able to build your case.

  • That is a distinct possibility. While Hollman and Stern are right, the Court may well find a way to allow the cross to remain. Personally, I think that there are far more serious matters to deal with, such as the efforts to divert public funds to sectarian private schools, the whole climate change issue, and the campaigns to cut back on women’s rights of conscience and religious liberty on abortion and contraception.

  • The vast majority of veteran memorials on public land in the United States are secular. Memorials to American war veterans take the form of statues, obelisks, arches, gardens, fountains, plaques, and other similar structures. Gravestones in public cemeteries (such as Arlington National Cemetery) do not constitute a government endorsement of religion. The grave markers are all shaped exactly the same – a RECTANGLE curved at the top, not a Christian cross. There is space on each individual marker that can be engraved with a religious symbol chosen by the family. Over 60 gravestone options are available and individually represent the private religious beliefs of the persons buried there, and those symbols are chosen by family members of the deceased, not the government.

    There is no comparison between families selecting a symbol on a headstone that represents the beliefs of their deceased relative and the government maintaining a 40-foot tall Christian cross and pretending it represents all fallen soldiers. See, it is possible to honor the fallen on public land without violating the Constitution.

  • I agree that it might, on a case by case basis, be appropriate to remove certain monuments that represent beliefs that do violence to certain groups or support values that society now considers reprehensible. I could see, for instance, removing a Civil War era monument to slavery.

    I don’t think this cross falls into that category.

  • Bill Paca: So other than being the internationally recognized, primary symbol of a major religion… it’s not overtly sectarian? There is a case based on its shape.

  • Parker12: From what I understand that’s not really an option unless traffic patterns are drastically modified to allow standard access to the land. There’s also risk of the monument damaging vehicles if it’s not repaired by a new owner at the current location. If someone purchased or claimed ownership of the monument and had it moved, that would definitely be a solution.

  • As I understand it, the government took the land to build the traffic circle.
    This is a perfect opportunity for a public/private solution.
    Either the state gives it back to a group to care for it properly; or the state keeps it and maintains it like any other monument.
    This squabbling by a bunch of lawyers and activists is stupid and disrespectful to the men and community that built the memorial.
    Whether it is a cross, crescent, star or square should not matter because the purpose was to memorialize the men and their actions.

  • So your option is to move it?
    Nope. Leave it where it is.
    The state caused the problem.
    Regardless of who pays for it; the repairs can be made.
    Chicago has orange barrels and road construction 24/7; 365.
    Your problem is that you want it moved to a dark corner somewhere.
    Don’t disgrace the memory of these men by being trivial.

  • Parker12: I do agree that the state caused its own problem that it’s obligated to correct based on constitutional law.

    Your problem is that you want it moved to a dark corner somewhere.

    Incorrect. I don’t care if it’s moved to an even more prominent plot of land, as long as it’s not government property.

    Don’t disgrace the memory of these men by being trivial.

    Stop allowing our government to violate the citizen rights that these men died defending.

  • it should remain .

    just not on public property and not with tax money sustaining it .

    you could start a crowd funding drive for it . if you are really concerned .

  • Ok. Then the practical solution is to leave it where it is and fix it.
    Simple.
    Who cares where the money comes from. Just fix it.

  • The symbols are there, on the stones — maybe 4 inches tall, and nobody pretends to be offended, NOW. Jumbo-size crosses seem to offend, however. I really don’t think it matters if it is taken down. The fallen have gone to their rest. But in future, is the 4-inch symbol going to offend?

  • the american battle monuments commission, you referred to, states in its current visitor’s guide book :

    “ABMC’s World War I commemortive program consisted of constructing eight permanent American Cemeteries in Europe and erecting 13 separate memorials and markers through the course of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Each cemetery was accented with nonsectarian chapels,
    sculptures….”

    is this then a new policy ?

  • No. It was always there; until the government inserted it self.
    Leave it where it is. Let a private organization repair and maintain it.
    Problem solved.

  • Yes, the gravestones at Arlington each have a small area that can be engraved with a religious symbol chosen by the family. The gravestone options individually represent the private religious beliefs of the persons buried there, and those symbols are chosen by family members of the deceased, not the government.

    There is no comparison between families selecting a symbol on a headstone that represents the beliefs of their deceased relative and the government maintaining a 40-foot tall, stand-alone Christian cross and pretending it represents all fallen soldiers. “Whether the key word is ‘endorsement’, ‘favoritism’, or ‘promotion’, the essential principle remains the same. The Establishment Clause [of the First Amendment], at the very least, prohibits government from appearing to take a position on questions of religious belief.” Allegheny County v. ACLU, 492 U.S. 573.

  • Bill Paca: Why would you gloat about an erosion of our shared religious rights? Do you also brag about maiming yourself or losing large amounts of money gambling?

  • Parker12: Leaving it on government property would imply government endorsement.

    Who cares where the money comes from. Just fix it.

    I care if our government is forcing me to pay for this religious display as it violates my freedom of conscience and religious rights.

  • Bill Paca: That would violate The Establishment Clause and impose on citizen religious rights.

  • Well, since people like you are unreasonable; and can’t get past your intent to erase all things religious; I guess that’s what the court is for.
    It’s too bad. You ignore the purpose of the monument and the memories of the men because of your personal vendetta.
    And please spare me your response about the first amendment. You use it as a foil to sanitize anything religious. You are no better than the taliban.

  • Hollman and Stern are well-paid legal mouthpieces for organizations opposed to what most Americans would consider religious liberty.

  • Parker12: People only seem unreasonable to people like you who like to assume ill-intent whenever someone disagrees with you.

    I have no goal or intent to erase all religion, or even some.

    It’s unfortunate that you don’t value the rights that these men fought and died to defend.

    An interest in marrying religion to government would be a Taliban style action, which fits the interests and motivations of many evangelical Christians.

  • There’d be a case if it was a pyramid, an orb, or an obelisk as well.

    http://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/17/17-1717/55800/20180727163951964_Amicus%20Brief%20of%20Jewish%20Coalition%20for%20Religious%20Liberty.pdf

    “BRIEF FOR AMICUS CURIAE JEWISH COALITION FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS”

    “In addition, this Court should grant certiorari to address the lower courts’ expansive use of “offended observer” standing in Establishment Clause cases. Like many courts of appeals, the Fourth Circuit has held that persons who take offense at the mere sight of a religious symbol suffer sufficient injury-in-fact to bring an Establishment Clause claim. Nowhere else in the law is this type of injury sufficient to support Article III standing.”

    “This Court should grant certiorari to clarify standing requirements in Establishment Clause cases, not least because ex-pansive ‘offended observer’ standing poses special risks for religious minorities, whose less-familiar symbols and practices may be conspicuous targets for “offended observers” seeking to eradicate any religious elements from the public realm.”

    “The Court looked in particular to the history of legislative prayer and early congressional recognition that the practice ‘posed no threat of an establishment’ of religion so long as no one was compelled to pray, ‘no faith was excluded by law, nor any favored,” and the prayers “imposed a vanishingly small burden on taxpayers.’”

    “The result is the reductio ad absurdum of Establishment Clause analysis under Lemon: a nearly 100-year-old memorial to forty-nine soldiers who lost their lives in World War I is rendered a ‘sectarian’ display that ‘endors[es] Christianity … not only above all other faiths, but also to their exclusion.’”

    And so on.

    This non-Christian group of Jewish attorneys references the “the relatively uninformed perspective” of the so-called “reasonable observer” to whom ANY cross is inadmissible, which of course is absurd on its face.

    I expect the SCOTUS to continue to right the analytical ship that Everson and Lemon tipped so far as to take on water and begin to sink.

  • rockchalkwombat: Violence isn’t the issue. Government giving special treatment to one religion, establishing it as preferred, would be the issue at hand.

  • Art: You’re apparently fixating on an assumption of offense, when the issue is tacit religious endorsement by our government and imposed religious tithe via tax payments. I hope you learn to value and appreciate your religious rights at some point.

  • It’s a reliable indicator that you’re dealing with a Christian’s hurt feelings when they offer the “who’s offended by my religion being in government, boohoo, what a buncha crybabies” routine. I believe psychologists call it projection.

  • Again, I strongly support the separation of church and state. But in this particular situation, I think one can reasonably interpret the monument more for its history than its religious significance. If it were a 100-year-old Star of David I’d feel no differently.

    That said, whatever the decision of the court ends up being, I’ll be fine with it.

  • rockchalkwombat: I don’t think anyone would have an issue with this monument if it were not an internationally recognized symbol of a religion. Given its shape and being located on government land, I suspect there are theocratic minded opportunists looking to use this situation to leverage government endorsement for their favorite religion.

  • Perhaps, but usually when that kind of opportunism rears its head, it’d easy enough to recognize and deal with.

    I think there should be a kind of common sense “grandfathering” approach when it comes to historical monuments. While I wouldn’t support placing a cross on public land today, I recognize that such wasn’t the sensibility 100 years ago.
    I just think reforming the historical landscape to suit modern sensibilities is, generally, a bad idea. History is important.

  • “Art: You’re apparently fixating on an assumption of offense, when the issue is tacit religious endorsement by our government and imposed religious tithe via tax payments. I hope you learn to value and appreciate your religious rights at some point.”

    You’re apparently operating under the misimpression that if you’re offended, everyone else must be offended.

    Whether this cross is a religious endorsement is the very question before the SCOTUS.

    If it was a settled issue, the Court would not have accepted it for review.

  • Their mothers and the people who contributed to build this monument valued the rights that these men fought and died to defend.

    It’s unfortunate that you and the Humanists wish to trod all over those rights, and these heroes’ memory.

  • Not so. The BJC and the AJC have long and distinguished records of defending the religious liberty of all,Americans.

  • In 1919, the Town of Bladensburg approved the erection of what was described then as a “mammoth cross, a likeness of the Cross of Calvary, as described in the Bible.” “Calvary” refers to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The committee overseeing the effort was aptly named the “Calvary Cross Memorial” committee. The cross has been commonly referred to as the Calvary Cross, the Bladensburg Cross, the World War I Memorial, and the Peace Cross. Call it what you will, but the cross obviously endorses Christianity to the exclusion of all other religions. Federal courts have consistently recognized that a Christian cross (sometimes called a Latin cross) is sectarian and the preeminent symbol of Christianity.

  • rockchalkwombat: I guess you could call litigation easy if you want.
    How would this grandfathering apply in this case where the monument is falling apart, putting traffic at risk, and potentially costing taxpayers over $100,000? I think forcing non-Christians to pay for these repairs violates their freedom of conscience.

  • Art: I’m not claiming offense. You are telling me and others that we’re offended. It seems that you’re projecting your feelings of offense onto others.

  • Decisions like this should be made on a case by case basis after weighing all the factors. I’m not doctrinaire about such things.

    My experience has been that reasonable people can usually find solutions.

    Moving on. Peace.

  • Art:

    Their mothers and the people who contributed to build this monument valued the rights that these men fought and died to defend.

    I also value those rights. You apparently don’t understand the scope of citizen rights or you don’t value them.

  • rockchalkwombat: I and others have provided several options that have been rejected by religious minded people for vague reasons, and motivations that I suspect have ulterior goals at their heart. I also think that reasonable people can find a solution. Hopefully some reasonable cross advocates will speak up at some point.

  • As far as I am able to ascertain, you are totally unfamiliar with the case law in this area and subscribe to some version of “wall of separation between church and state”, a discredited misapplication of someone’s personal opinion to jurisprudence.

    When the case is decided one of us will receive a lesson.

  • Art:

    When the case is decided one of us will receive a lesson.

    Why not now? If you think there’s pertinent decisions that validate imposing on citizen rights, then tell me about them. Which case best explains why non-Christians should be forced by our government to fund a Christian monument?

  • Art: Yes. The BJC link you provided shows that they supported the rights of the couple getting married and the cake shop workers.

  • ZappaSaid88: So you recognize that some sitting on the Supreme Court are politically prejudiced and are willing to violate citizen rights by overturning precedent?

  • The cake shop workers were uninvolved in the lawsuit.

    What they accomplished for them was unemployment since the cakeshop stopped baking wedding cakes after the lawsuit.

    To this point no “right” of the already married couple has been “vindicated” since the SCOTUS threw the lawsuit out since Colorado completely mucked it up.

  • I have bookmarked your previous comment.

    When the SCOTUS rules that the cross in question does not violate the establishment clause, I’ll cite that opinion.

  • Art: Wouldn’t worker unemployment be the owners responsibility for not just making a cake?

    To this point no “right” of the already married couple has been “vindicated” since the SCOTUS threw the lawsuit out since Colorado completely mucked it up.

    That decision that also doesn’t *vindicate* the cake shops discrimination has no bearing on the BJC’s support of all citizen rights and freedoms.

  • No, after reading your responses to other folks’ citations, I know better than to waste my time.

  • Art: You can’t provide any pertinent cases, so why bother searching. Gotcha. If you run across something, please share.

  • Art: I’d be happy to read if you’re aware of something that justifies imposing a religious expense on citizens via taxation, or that justifies a business discrimination using religion as justification. Regarding the later, I’d like to hear why such actions are justified in relation to sexuality and not race.

  • This is because now the non religious account for around 30% of the population in this country. In the beginning it was less than 5%. We now have a large enough voice that we are being heard and not harassed or dismissed. Christians need to be told they don’t run the country for themselves and this is one way of doing it.

  • Splinter group? Atheists agnostics and the non religious represent 30% of this country these days. You might think that we should just shut up and go away, but that’s not going to happen. It’s our country as much as yours and we don’t need the government promoting your religion

  • That personal opinion came from the man who authored the constitution itself, James Madison. You are seriously going to say his declaration is only an opinion with no weight?

  • No, atheists, agnostics, and the non religious do NOT represent 30% of this country these days.

    Depending on which poll you rely on, atheists and agnostics comprise 2-7% of the population.

    You may be thinking NONES are non-religious, but they’re not.

    They’re simply non-aligned with a denomination.

  • No, James Madison did not author the Constitution himself.

    He was ONE of the authors at the Constitutional Convention.

    And, no, it was not him but Jefferson who wrote about a “wall of separation between church and state” in a personal letter 11 years AFTER the First Amendment was ratified.

    Jefferson was in Europe during the Constitutional Convention, played no part at all in drafting the First Amendment.

    And, yes, it is an opinion with no more legal authority than your opinions or mine.

  • The case involves no religious expense.

    The First Amendment justifies citizens practicing their faiths.

    There is no provision in the Constitution for suspension of that right due to commerce.

  • Art: Repairs for the cross have already exceeded $100,000 and call for more.

    The First Amendment justifies citizens practicing their faiths.

    Our government has no such religious rights. This is now our government showing religious preference, which is prohibited by The 1st Amendment.

  • Preserving an important monument is NOT a “religious expense”.

    This is our government showing a preference for preserving historically important monuments.

  • Art: Preserving a religious monument is a religious expense. This is a religious monument that is very old. It is not historical in that it does not indicate a location of a historical event nor is it directly part of the historical event that it’s associated with.

  • You keep begging the argument by declaring it a religious monument and declaring it is not historical.

    I have bad news for you: you are not a court, let alone the SCOTUS.

  • Art:

    You keep begging the argument by declaring it a religious monument

    It is unquestionably a religious monument. It’s original dedication indicates its religious nature and intent on several levels. Either you’re unaware of the monuments history on record or you’re being disingenuous.

    Its historical value might be up for debate tho. That is my opinion.

  • Just for your information, I am getting ready to block you.

    Your obsessive statements of your opinions as facts and pretenses that there is no legal issues for the SCOTUS to consider at all are clogging my inbox.

  • Art: Super. That means I can correct your comments and you won’t respond with erroneous information and fallacies.

    Again, the religious status of this monument is not my opinion. It should’ve been addressed when our government claimed the associated land, before taxpayers were forced to pay for its repairs. I support those trying to defend our religious rights from government imposition and I hope you’ll also donate to The AHA. If you don’t, then I hope you better educate yourself regarding our citizen religious rights in relation to our government at some point.

  • The point you miss here is that 34% of the people are either not religious or very marginally apathetic to it, otherwise they would identify with one of some sort. That means they aren’t Christian and the cross does represent them. We are tired of being harassed and dismissed and will push back if needed

  • Your 34% number is in error.

    The bulk of the Nones are religious.

    Christians are getting tired of being harassed and dismissed and you have yet to see the pushback.

  • Slight problem.

    You’re misclassifying “Nones” as something they are not to back up your erroneous position. For no particular reason at all you lump “Nones” with atheists and agnostics.

    https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/february/nones-agnostics-religious-identity-switching-cces-christian.html

    We see that the defection rate is highest among agnostics, then nones, then atheists.

    Turns out, individuals who religiously identify as nothing in particular are just as likely to tilt toward returning to a Christian tradition as they are to become even more entrenched in having no religion.

    Anyone familiar with young adults knows how it plays.

    Agnostics and atheists make up around 4% and up 3.1% of the U.S. population

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreligion_in_the_United_States

    and I think that estimate is generous.

  • Parker12: There is nothing requiring that it stay there, and several reasons why it should be moved. A private organization dealing with repairs and maintenance doesn’t correct the government/religion conflict.

  • Parker12: It’s not a symbol of all the American countries. It’s not even a symbol of The United States. The tax money is better spent helping citizens and upholding their rights.

  • “There is no reason to move the cross; and the US Government shall pay for its upkeep in perpetuity…”
    B. Kavanaugh…

  • Parker12: Doing so violates constitutional principles and the religious rights of citizens. Your comment is wrongheaded and trollish.

  • Parker12: There’s no problem with citizens using their own resources to buy however many crosses they want.

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