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Remembered Today:

WWI Cross memorial 'violates 1st amendment'


NigelS
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Also a slight degree of judging yesterday's actions by today's standards (despite the age of the constitution.

Dogmatism rather than Progamatism

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Seems rather sad that politics should get in the way of a genuine and heartfelt action to commemorate the fallen by one who served.

Regards

John

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I've been to this area, there are also a number of small shrines to fallen people of the indian nations, probably the only winners will be lawyers so my question is why didn't I listen to my parents and become a lawyer rather than going to sea?

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Isn't there such a creature as a sea lawyer?

I think that the men on the memorial would be happy to be commemorated in this manner - I suspect secular fundamentalists at work.

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Forum Rules state: "Discussions and posts on modern-day politics or religion will not be tolerated in any area of the forum."

Why am I reading this? Reported to Mods.

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It's a complicated and devisive subject that comes to the forefront periodically in the US. It starts from the premise that everyone is supposed to have the freedom to practice their own religion (or not practice as the case may be). There is a corallary principle that there should be no state prescribed religion and no steps should be taken (or suffered to exist) by the government to promote one religion over another. When crosses (the epitome of Christian symbolism), for example, appear on government property, then these constitutional principles begin to collide.

While I am a Christian (and a lawyer, not always mutually exclusive conditions :rolleyes: ) and have strong feelings in favor of memorials to those who have served and died to defend our freedoms, I also dont want the government involved in my religion and I want to be sure that my particular religion isnt shoved down any one else's throat. (Perhaps typical for a lawyer, you may say, but I have also taken the other side, professionally, having worked on defending the State of Georgia in a similar case which involved crosses and a granite statue of Jesus on state property.)

While this case appears a bit ludicrous on its face (you see in the news reports the dire consequences anticipated by both sides if its position is not upheld), the prinicples remain important. My own viewpoint is that Id rather err on the side taken by the ACLU in this case, rather than taking the risk of further involvement of the government in religion.

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Forum Rules state: "Discussions and posts on modern-day politics or religion will not be tolerated in any area of the forum."

Why am I reading this? Reported to Mods.

Certainly, let the Mods decide. I would think, though, that it is somewhat of a grey area, given the direct connection to WWI. I have seen similar discussions on this Forum, at least in the arguably "political" arena, concerning, for example, modern day actions of the Turkish government at Gallipoli and with the Fromelles graves which have not been stopped or removed.

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The cross was used as a symbol by many people before it became a symbol of Christianity. IIRC Some Native Americans used it to represent the four winds and or the four seasons.

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The cross was used as a symbol by many people before it became a symbol of Christianity. IIRC Some Native Americans used it to represent the four winds and or the four seasons.

Interesting. I think they borrowed or incorporated (or maybe even independently developed) a lot of pre-exisiting symbols and practices that we now associate primarily or exclusively with their religion.

Also interesting, in these court cases, the government often takes the position that "small crosses set close to the ground" have lost all religious connotation and are merely a secular symbol for a grave site.

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Forum Rules state: "Discussions and posts on modern-day politics or religion will not be tolerated in any area of the forum."

Why am I reading this? Reported to Mods.

Speaking personally, I'm happy for this to stay open - as long as folks exercise caution in what they say. Any comments on the specific political or religious ramifications of the case could well breach forum rules.

Alan

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There is a corallary principle that there should be no state prescribed religion and no steps should be taken (or suffered to exist) by the government to promote one religion over another.

I'm often reminded of the common sense of the men who drafted your constitution, Vince.

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Some people believe the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires the separation of church and state; it doesn't, at least in those words. What it says is: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

I'm not very familiar with details of the jurisprudence on the religion issue, but I'd like to point out that this is a court case and not a directive by the government to have the memorial removed. Some years ago there were a number of court cases regarding plaques with the Ten Commandments that Christian fundamentalist groups had caused to be erected in various public parks and buildings. Most of them were removed following lengthy court battles.

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I presume that the issue in this case is that the memorial stands on publicly-owned land. Given the amount of land that is owned by the government in the USA, can this possibly be the only cross (or other symbol with religious connotations) on such land? Are there no cruciform monuments on civil war battlefield heritage sites, or on military bases or training areas, or in military cemeteries ?

One of the advantages of Britain's less codified system is that elegant fudges can usually be devised to cover most eventualities. In this case, perhaps, that the structure is merely incidentally cruciform in geometry and that its primary purpose is as a war memorial. The fact that it has stood for 75 years, without official approval but evidently without objection, would then be taken to confer squatter's rights by adverse possession and 'planning permission' by acquiescence. Finally, the memorial would be 'listed' as a protected historical monument and receive a generous grant for its restoration and preservation.

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Are there no cruciform monuments on civil war battlefield heritage sites, or on military bases or training areas, or in military cemeteries ?

There is the Argonne Cross at Arlington National Cemetery -

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.org/visitor_i...onne_Cross.html

Alan

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Are there no cruciform monuments on civil war battlefield heritage sites,

I've visited several and can't recall any (which, of course, is not to say that there aren't any)

On a related issue, when I visited Charleston a couple of years back, I went on a walking tour and one of the stops was a church (Episcopalian , IIRC). I was surprised to see the American flag on display next to the altar and asked the guide if this was common. He replied on two levels - firstly saying the Americans never pass the opportunity to display their flag and, second, as Pete notes, the Consitution does not prevent such a thing. Other members of the tour (all American) were surprised that British Anglican churches do not usually display the Union flag - that said, a number of them did not seem to know of the city's significance in the War Between the States.

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Other members of the tour (all American) were surprised that British Anglican churches do not usually display the Union flag

But of course some do - when regimental colours are laid up in the church. I can also recollect some Church of England Churches flying the St Georges Cross on the tower. I think this is less frequent now.

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A knotty constitutional problem in the USA with its roots in WWI:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/...-amendment.html

Maybe a good reason for not having a written constitution.

NigelS

What about the constitutional right to free speech and the fact that this memorial is trying to pay its respects to young men who died for what they believed?

If the memorial was rectangular (such as a gravestone) would it be acceptable?

And there was me thinking that world hunger and poverty was a problem .............

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I can also recollect some Church of England Churches flying the St Georges Cross on the tower.

I think the flag they fly is not a standard St George's Cross but one also emblazoned with the arms of the relevent bishop (or archbishop) in the top corner.

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I think the flag they fly is not a standard St George's Cross but one also emblazoned with the arms of the relevent bishop (or archbishop) in the top corner.

Not always so John, one of our local churches still flies the standard St. George's Cross without any embellishments, usually on St. George's Day.

NigelS

Edit: just found this from a link on Wikipedia http://fotw.net/flags/gb_coe.html#use which explains why some churches fly the plain cross.

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High court appears split on constitutionality of Mojave cross

By The Associated Press

10.07.09

WASHINGTON — As the Supreme Court weighed a dispute over a religious symbol on public land today, Justice Antonin Scalia was having difficulty understanding how some people might feel excluded by a cross that was put up as a memorial to soldiers killed in World War I.

"It's erected as a war memorial. I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead," Scalia said of the cross that the Veterans of Foreign Wars built 75 years ago atop an outcropping in the Mojave National Preserve. "What would you have them erect? ... Some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and you know, a Muslim half moon and star?"

Peter Eliasberg, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer arguing the case, explained that the cross is the predominant symbol of Christianity and commonly used at Christian grave sites, not that the devoutly Catholic Scalia needed to be told that.

"I have been in Jewish cemeteries," Eliasberg continued. "There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew."

There was mild laughter in the packed courtroom, but not from Scalia.

"I don't think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that that cross honors are the Christian war dead. I think that's an outrageous conclusion," Scalia said, clearly irritated by the exchange.

The Court is considering in Salazar v. Buono whether the cross' presence on the land violates the First Amendment, despite Congress' decision to transfer the land on which the cross sits to private ownership.

Scalia made plain his view of the case, strongly suggesting that he sees no problem with the cross at all. By contrast, lower federal courts did find a constitutional violation and were not persuaded that the land transfer fixed the problem.

The cross has been covered with plywood for the past several years following the court rulings. Court papers describe the cross as being 5 feet to 8 feet tall.

Although Scalia's take on the dispute seemed clear, the case appeared to diminish in importance as the hourlong argument continued.

Rather than serve as a statement about the separation of church and state or even how people get past the courthouse door to challenge religious symbols on government land, the case could end up focused narrowly on the land transfer.

Even on that issue, the Court appeared divided between conservatives and liberals.

Several conservative justices seemed open to the Obama administration's argument that Congress' decision to transfer to private ownership the land on which the cross sits ends any government endorsement of the cross and takes care of the constitutional questions.

"Isn't that a sensible interpretation" of a court order prohibiting the cross' display on government property? Justice Samuel Alito asked.

The liberal justices, on the other hand, indicated that they agree with a federal appeals court that ruled that the land transfer was a sort of end-run around the First Amendment prohibition against government endorsement of religion.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the decisive vote in these cases, said nothing to tip his hand.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has repeatedly ruled in Buono's favor. Congress has intervened on behalf of the cross, prohibiting the Park Service from spending money to remove the cross, designating it a national memorial and ultimately transferring the land to private ownership.

The appeals court invalidated the 2004 land transfer, saying that "carving out a tiny parcel of property in the midst of this vast preserve — like a doughnut hole with the cross atop it — will do nothing to minimize the impermissible governmental endorsement" of the religious symbol.

Veterans groups are on both sides of the case, with some worrying that other religious symbols that serve as war memorials could be threatened by a ruling against the Mojave cross.

Eliasberg, who represents the former National Park Service employee who sued over the cross, said their fears are misplaced. He said two prominent symbols in Arlington National Cemetery, the Argonne Cross Memorial and Canadian Cross of Sacrifice, are different.

Context matters, Eliasberg said, noting that the Veterans Administration offers a choice of 39 different emblems and beliefs on tombstones at Arlington.

Jewish and Muslim veterans, by contrast, object that the Mojave cross honors Christian veterans and excludes others.

Whatever the Court decides, it seems unlikely that the Mojave cross — where Easter Sunrise services have been held for decades — will have to come down.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg indicated, and Eliasberg agreed, that even if the Court found problems with what Congress did, lawmakers probably could find a valid way to sell or give the land to veterans groups.

A decision is expected by spring.

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Does this mean that the chapels and the symbols therein that are in the US war cemeteries over here are going to be closed /pulled down or is 'Over here' the let out? There are an awful lot of crosses in them.

Not only that, but a good number of Christian men are 'probably possibly' buried under Jewish Stars and most probably the other way around as well. I would have thought that this was a subject well worth not opening.

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  • 6 months later...

An update on this topic:

Supreme Court says Mojave cross can stand

In a divided ruling, the justices rule that the 1st Amendment calls for ‘accommodation’ of religious displays on public land rather than strict separation of church and state.

Reporting from Washington

The Supreme Court gave its approval Wednesday to displaying a cross on public land to honor fallen soldiers, saying the Constitution "does not require the eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm."

Speaking for a divided court, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the 1st Amendment called for a middle-ground "policy of accommodation" toward religious displays on public land, not a strict separation of church and state.

Kennedy disagreed with judges in California who said U.S. National Park Service officials must remove a small Latin cross from the Mojave National Preserve that had stood since 1934 to honor soldiers who died in World War I. The judges said the display of the cross on public land amounted to a government endorsement of religion.

"A Latin cross is not merely a reaffirmation of Christian beliefs," he wrote. "Here, a Latin cross in the desert evokes far more than religion. It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies are compounded if the fallen are forgotten."

The 5-4 decision told the lower-court judges to reconsider the matter and presumably uphold the display of a cross. Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined Kennedy's opinion, and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas agreed separately that the cross can remain on display.

Retiring Justice John Paul Stevens spoke for the dissenters. The government has good reason for "honoring all those who have rendered heroic public service regardless of creed," but it should "avoid endorsement of a particular religious view" in doing so, he said.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor agreed.

The Mojave cross has been tied in litigation for years. The case had been watched closely because it was the first church-state-separation dispute to come before the Supreme Court since John Roberts became chief justice.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

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-Daniel

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Not always so John, one of our local churches still flies the standard St. George's Cross without any embellishments, usually on St. George's Day.

NigelS

All the parish churches around here fly the St Georges Cross every day. It's lovely to see, too.

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