Paul Kengor: Supreme Court’s cross case & religious freedom
One of the major Supreme Court decisions we’ll soon hear about is the Bladensburg cross case. This is the case where secularists are demanding the removal of a large cross that serves as the centerpiece of a veterans’ memorial in Bladensburg, Md.
The “Peace Cross” was erected in 1925 by a local post of the American Legion and Gold Star mothers in honor of 49 fallen World War I soldiers.
In the case known as The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, the “humanists” are arguing that the cross is unconstitutional because it’s on government property. The very fact that the cross is a cross is what makes it objectionable and unacceptable on that spot. Replace it with a statue of Barney the purple dinosaur, if you’d like. But no cross.
Secularists appeal to the First Amendment, which says, in part, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” As if allowing a cross memorial in Bladensburg to continue standing would constitute Congress pursuing a Christian theocracy.
These same forces always selectively invoke that handful of words, while carefully avoiding the remainder of what the First Amendment says about religious freedom: Congress “shall not prohibit the free exercise thereof.” The American Legion and Gold Star mothers exercised their freedom of religion in honor of their fallen brothers and sons.
The secularists could give a rip. They want the cross down.
This is, of course, an outrage. It’s hostility toward religion. It’s also a remarkable example of intolerance. How could any American be so intolerant of the religious beliefs of others? Talk about a lack of respect for diversity.
Even more offensive was the suggestion of the judge who ruled against the cross. During oral arguments in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va., Judge Stephanie Thacker asked the attorney defending the memorial: “What about … my suggestion of chopping the arms off?”
Say that again?
Yes, the judge offered a solution: slice off the horizontal arms. You read that right: remove the arms from the cross.
No kidding. For the record, the cross doesn’t have a corpus. Thus, the demolition team wouldn’t be sawing off the arms of Jesus. Still, the judge would effectively convert the Christian cross into a pillar. Can you imagine the audacity?
Thacker’s solution prompts this thought: In the interest of fairness and equality, why stop with crosses? Why not target the horizontal parts of the Star of David? That’s a religious symbol, too. Are there any similar cases of large Stars of David erected on government property that we should now express outrage over? Should we launch a nationwide search to put them on the chopping block? Unfortunately, the star would no longer be a star after it meets the ax, but that seems a minor trifle — eh?
To my beloved Jewish friends: No offense, but it’s apparently crucial that we do this. We must ensure that Congress does not impose an “establishment of religion.”
I have a better idea: How about we all learn to be more respectful of the religious beliefs of others? Liberals, I thought you were all about tolerance?
I’ll fight for the religious freedom of every Christian, Jew and Muslim — every cross, Star of David, church, synagogue, mosque. How about you, folks?
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and chief academic fellow of the Institute for Faith & Freedom at Grove City College.