The Jury Talks Back


Cross supporters: it’s a universal, transcendent, common symbol

Filed under: Uncategorized — aunursa @ 8:18 pm

Next week the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Salazar v Buono, another church-state dispute involving the presence of a cross on public land.  In this case, the controversial symbol is a war memorial located on a lonely road in the middle of Mojave National Preserve, a 1.6 million acre park in southeastern California.  Ten years ago the National Park Service rejected a request by a man to erect a Buddhist shrine near the cross, and the subsequent legal action resulted in the case now before the Court.

What I find remarkable is a claim made by some of the petitioners arguing in support of the continued presence of the cross.  In a Brief of Amicus Curiae the American Legion Department in California said that the cross is “a uniquely transcendent symbol representing the decision to lay down one’s life for the good of others…  In short, the cross is one of the most common — and significant — symbols of our society.”  The petitioner, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, also argued that the monument was a secular symbol.

Such an argument contradicts the overwhelming evidence of the past 2000 years.  For my entire life I have observed Christians displaying the cross and describing its inherent meaningful, religious nature.  Indeed, in this very case conservative Christian groups such as, the American Center for Law & Justice, the Christian Legal Society and the National Association of Evangelicals have filed briefs in support of the petitioner’s position, suggesting that the cross is a “passive religious symbol.”  The cross is a passive symbol?  Puhleeze!

Those supporting the respondent’s position against the cross include several atheist, Jewish, and interfaith groups, and at least two Muslim organizations.  Easter sunrise services have been held at the base of the cross for years.  Can anyone say with a straight face that these groups — the Christian groups and the other groups — would be involved in this case if the cross were a “passive” symbol, and not universally recognized as the most recognized and unique sign of the Christian faith?

The idea that a cross can be divorced from its deep religious symbolism is laughable and ridiculous.  I would expect that sincere Christians would protest the devaluing of their most cherished symbol.

(Note: This Wikipedia page includes images of various crosses considered symbols of Christianity and other religions.  The specific dimensions of the Mojave cross clearly distinguishes it as a Christian symbol. ie. The smaller horizontal bar is centered about 2/3 of the way up on the longer, vertical bar.)


  1. I agree. It’s ludicrous for people to twist themselves into pretzels to avoid the religious issue and still find a way to leave the cross in place. It’s equally ludicrous for Christians to let them do it just because they like the result.

    Comment by DRJ — 9/29/2009 @ 8:46 pm

  2. Is it Lemon where the Christmas Tree is denatured of religious symbolism and the Menorah is allowed because that’s all the Jews had? One of my professors used to joke that the Court should have tossed the Menorah, a miracle anyway, and made them put up a giant dreidel or something.

    Comment by Fritz — 9/29/2009 @ 8:50 pm

  3. Due to the case in Utah that the SCotUS decided this past term, I suspect this will lose soundly.

    Comment by Scott Jacobs — 9/29/2009 @ 9:20 pm

  4. I also agree. The cross is Christianity. It is not a variant of Thor’s Hammer or the Navajo swastika.

    The amici should make the honest argument that Christians have a right to honor the war dead, in accordance with their religion, on public property. Or will we remove all the crosses from Arlington cemetery? And how about all the Distinguished Service Crosses and Navy Crosses we have awarded to war heroes? Are we going to take them back?

    Comment by nk — 9/30/2009 @ 3:55 am

  5. The establishment clause has never been absolute. We commission chaplains in the armed forces. We give textbooks to Catholic schools and grants, scholarships, and federally-guaranteed loans to Catholic Universities, among many other things.

    Comment by nk — 9/30/2009 @ 3:58 am

  6. nk: The amici should make the honest argument that Christians have a right to honor the war dead, in accordance with their religion, on public property

    That line of reasoning would present petitioners with a dilemma:

    (a) Make the untenable argument that Christians — and only Christians — may erect a religious monument on public property; or

    (b) Be prepared for the cross to lose its solitude, as it will be joined by the Buddhist shrine, shortly followed by a Magen David, a Muslim crescent, and perhaps a dozen other religious monuments.

    Comment by aunursa — 9/30/2009 @ 5:18 am

  7. Why not? How much of an intrusion is the cross’s footprint in a multi-million acre national park. On the land or in the eye?

    Specifically to your question, I, as a co-owner of that land, would not object to Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, pantheists, primitive animists, atheists, and Jedis, erecting monuments to honor our war dead according to their religious tenets.

    Comment by nk — 9/30/2009 @ 11:55 am

  8. And please remember, there was no Mojave National Preserve when this cross was first put up – or perhaps even the last time.

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! — 9/30/2009 @ 12:53 pm

  9. I continue t wonder when more people will realise that there are two distinct ‘flavours’ of atheists …

    There are those atheists who do not believe that any deity exists, and who don’t give the proverbial rodent’s fundament about what anyone else believes …

    And then there are those atheists who are fervent, often fanatical believers in their own Zero Deity religion, and who cannot accept that anyone else believes in any deity …

    The second group are those who get the ACLU and the like to fight the existence of symbols of other religions …

    And the result of the ACLU and the like’s efforts is to try to Establish the Zero Deity religion as the national religion of the US – by banning each and any other religion …

    While the Cross has major religious significance for Christianity, it also has significance in many other religions as a seconday symbol, and it also retains significance as a secular symbol …

    Is the Red Cross only a Christian organisation ?

    Do those who are HIV+ who choose the + as a tattoo do so because of its Christian significance ?

    What has happened to the ability to agree to disagree, to the flexibility that allows something to be both a symbol *and* an object in and of itself ?

    The traditional simple cross of war monuments and graveyards lost its ‘Christians Only’ exclusiveness a long time ago …

    Rather than fight to remove this worthy symbol, how about we put the effort into putting up *other* worthy symbols, as additional reminders of the courage and sacrifices offered by others ?

    Comment by Alasdair — 9/30/2009 @ 1:21 pm

  10. nk: Specifically to your question, I, as a co-owner of that land, would not object to Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, pantheists, primitive animists, atheists, and Jedis, erecting monuments to honor our war dead according to their religious tenets.

    That’s a reasonable and defensible position. But I suspect that your inclusive view is not shared by the supporters of the petitioner, nor by a majority of those on the sidelines who are rooting for the petitioner.

    Comment by aunursa — 9/30/2009 @ 5:41 pm

  11. “I am your Lord God … you shall have no others before me.”

    “For I Am a Jealous God ….”

    “Every sincerely held religion is exclusive of others. Tough titty, guys, this is America not Iran. Watering down your Christianity (non-sectarian, non-denominational) is not going to make it the exclusive religion and it will only make the Guy upstairs mad at you.”

    Comment by nk — 9/30/2009 @ 6:57 pm

  12. I support the petitioners simply because the monument has been there so long, and like nk I don’t have a problem with other war memorials in large venues like this — even memorials with religious overtones.

    Comment by DRJ — 9/30/2009 @ 7:15 pm

  13. Comment by DRJ — 9/30/2009 @ 7:15 pm

    But doesn’t the SC’s holding in Pleasant Grove City v Summum sit very on-point in this?

    Pleasant Grove City denied the Summum (some odd religion) the right to errect something for their faith next to other religious items in a city park, and the Supreme Court upheld that denial…

    I’m vastly over-simplifying, that’s the gist of it…

    Comment by Scott Jacobs — 9/30/2009 @ 9:18 pm

  14. Nope. Secular purpose. Nobody is trying to promote a Christian holy day. Christians are honoring America’s war dead.

    Comment by nk — 10/1/2009 @ 6:59 am

  15. “…Christians are honoring America’s war dead.”

    Well, we can’t have that.
    The next thing you know, they’ll be holding parades on the Fourth of July, singing the “Star-Spangled Banner“,
    and getting involved in community government!

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! — 10/3/2009 @ 10:17 am

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