Controversy over cross honoring WWI veterans

Discussion in 'OFF-Topic / Misc.' started by B-17engineer, Oct 7, 2009.

  1. B-17engineer

    B-17engineer Active Member

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    The Supreme Court is taking up a long-running legal fight over a cross honoring World War I soldiers that has stood for 75 years on public land in a remote part of California.

    The cross, on an outcrop known as Sunrise Rock in the Mojave National Preserve, has been covered in plywood for the past several years following federal court rulings that it violates the First Amendment prohibition against government endorsement of religion.

    The justices were to hear arguments Wednesday in a case the court could use to make an important statement about its view of the separation of church and state. The Obama administration is defending the presence of the cross, which court papers describe as being 5 feet to 8 feet tall.

    * The Supreme Court


    A former National Park Service employee, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued to have the cross removed or covered after the agency refused to allow erection of a Buddhist memorial nearby. Frank Buono describes himself as a practicing Catholic who has no objection to religious symbols, but he took issue with the government's decision to allow the display of only the Christian symbol.

    Easter Sunrise services have been held at the site for decades.

    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 in Buono's favor. Jewish and Muslim veterans, by contrast, object that the Mojave cross honors Christian veterans and excludes others.

    The administration wants the court to rule that Buono had no right to file his lawsuit because, as a Christian, he suffers no harm from the cross. His main complaint is that others may feel excluded, the government says.

    Alternatively, the administration says the land transfer took care of any First Amendment problem.



    Supreme Court To Consider Cross Honoring WWI Soldiers In Sunrise Park In Mojave National Preserve - cbs5.com
     
  2. diddyriddick

    diddyriddick Active Member

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    This is precisely why there should be a "wall of separation". Thanks for the heads-up.
     
  3. proton45

    proton45 Member

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    I'm sorry if I sound ignorant, but whats a "wall of separation"? How does it apply to the situation? :rolleyes:
     
  4. diddyriddick

    diddyriddick Active Member

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    Sorry, P. In a letter to the Danville Baptist Association of Connecticut, Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase "wall of separation" to characterize his view of the intermixing of church and state. Clearly, Jefferson believed that " religion is a matter which lies solely between man his god."
     
  5. proton45

    proton45 Member

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    Ah, thanks...the man was a font of good ideas.
     
  6. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    If this cross were to represent the WW1 veterans of San Bernardino County, then I can safely say that there were zero Muslims and a handfull of Jews that served in the armed forces for this war, from this area.
     
  7. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    There are cemetaries that have Jewish veterans interred alongside Christian veterans, and no one has an issue. It's not about the faiths of the veterans and thier representation that the ACLU is after, it's the half-cocked notion of "seperation of Church and State" that they are trying to cement.

    The phrase of "seperation of Church and State" is not found in the Constitution, it was in a reply to a letter that Thomas Jefferson mentioned it. And it's been taken out of context every since.

    The way I see it, if the ACLU were truly after a complete "seperation of Church and State", then they will have to press to have cities and counties renamed, no more religious holidays and let's not forget the names of days and months.

    All or nothing...
     
  8. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    All the problems in the world today, and this is what the idiots complain about??
     
  9. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    LMAO!

    No sh!t, huh?
     
  10. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    So relocate the dang thing onto some non-governmental land, build a memorial to vets of other faiths, and friggin get on with life! Its a memorial to honor those who fought. Perhaps someone should research the names associated with the memorial (I haven't seen the thing, so I have no idea if there are names or unit numbers inscribed on it anywhere, or if its just a general "those who served" memorial) and see if its truly exclusive, or not.

    Someone should disband the ACLU (heard someone refer to them as the "Get" Club...as in "Get ACLU"...."Get A Clue"). The fact that these men died to protect their rights to be idiots....that really burns me.
     
  11. proton45

    proton45 Member

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    #11 proton45, Oct 7, 2009
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2009
    I'm curious what the nature of the Buddhist memorial was? Does anyone know?

    I have to say that, on first glance, it doesn't look like a war memorial...it looks pretty religious in nature.

    After taking a quick glance at the news headlines I have to say that I was a bit surprised to find that it is the Christian groups that are fighting to keep the cross memorial in place...not the veterans groups.
     

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  12. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Well, a little bit of history regarding the Mojave Cross. It was erected in 1934 by recuperating WWI veterans who were sent to the desert climate by doctors who felt the environment would help thier health (many suffered respiratory ailments). The Veterans did this in rememberance of thier comrades and it became a popular spot for vets and thier families to visit for years afterward.

    An interesting note here: the Cross was erected decades before that area became the Mohave Desert Reserve. So if the ACLU wants to be technical, the Federal Government can't occupy that land, since there must be a seperation of Church and State, right?

    Anyway, as far as Bhuddists go, I don't think there's too many that serve in the armed forces, since they are more prone to non-violence. However, the military does recognize a person's faith (or non-faith) when they are interred. You can see Crosses, Star of Davids, Crescents and even obelisks for Athiests in any national cemetary and I'm sure that if a Bhuddist was interred, they would be represented in a respectful way just the same.
     
  13. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps the US Government should just classify it as a National Landmark (kinda like they do for certain churches).

    I'm surprised the ACLU has not tried to have the Supreme Court torn down on account of all the religious symbology in it.
     
  14. diddyriddick

    diddyriddick Active Member

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    Granted. But the Constitution DOES say "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." There is the substance of our disagreement. If a duly elected or appointed government sanctions ANY religious display on public lands, it is problematic in my view, and notably, even some of the conservative justices have reservations.

    How exactly is it taken out of context? In the original letter, the Danbury Baptist Association wrote "Our sentiments are uniformly on the side of religious liberty--that religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals--that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions--that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbors...." Jefferson's response was unequivocal, "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state. [Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from presenting even occasional performances of devotion presented indeed legally where an Executive is the legal head of a national church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.]" Jefferson's choice of words here is instructive; he didn't call it a chain link fence of separation.

    Nobody is advocating removing individual markers here. Moreover, if they were to convert the public lands to private hands(as the article suggests), I would have no beef. But I would be offended if I suffered in name, person, or effects on account of my religious opinions when my loved one were interred in public lands dominated by a christian symbol.

    Just my 2 cents.
     
  15. Butters

    Butters Member

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    "On May 14, 2008, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a Justice Department petition to rehear en banc its September 2007 decision striking down a congressionally mandated land exchange to save an 8-foot (2.4 m) metal cross that is bolted onto rocks on a rise in the Preserve. The court found the land exchange to be a transparent "attempt by the government to evade the permanent injunction enjoining the display of the Latin cross" on federal land." ~ Wik

    US governments, federal or otherwise, are legally bound to abide by the rules and principles embodied in the Constitution. Including the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. As the Latin cross is universally recognized as the definitive symbol of the Christian religion, the presence of that Mojave cross is a clear violation of the Establishment clause.

    Certain religious groups perceive the Establishment clause as being prejudicial to the practice of their faith. Nothing could be further from the truth. The First Amendment is the guarantor of their right to freedom of religious expression. That freedom however, does not extend to granting them, or any other religious creed, any special privilege in the public sphere. The presence of that cross, as a religious symbol exclusive to Christianity, on federal land, is a tacit endorsement of Christianity by the US govt. As such, it implies that Christianity, and by extension, its adherents, are entitled to privileges that those of other faiths (or no faith) are not.A clear violation of the Constitution...

    The fact that the cross is meant as a memorial to war veterans is irrelevant. The Constitution does not allow war memorials or war cemetaries exclusive to specific religious or ethnic groups on public land. All veterans or war dead, regardless of their faith or ethnicity, are considered to be of equal status and entitled to equal consideration by law. No exceptions.

    The location of the cross has no special historical significance. It is not the site of a battle or a burial ground, and hence would lose nothing of its symbolism if moved to another location. So they might as well move it now, because sooner or later it will be removed. Because the principle of the rule of law demands it.

    JL
     
  16. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Without delving too deep into the issue, the founding Fathers of the U.S. were in keeping with Judeo-Christian values as a guide in thier law-making and decision-making while maintaining religious tolerance for all persons. The point Jefferson was making, was that a boundary remain between the elected government and religious bodies so as not to repeat Papal or Anglican oversight in the affairs of government that had been the case in Europe. It was in no way shape or form directing the removal of religious expression on public property and religious expression was actually a part of government activities until the latter part of the 20th century.

    That aside, good idea, Butters! They should relocate the cross to a veterans memorial to represent WWI veterans since it was they who made it. I think that would perhaps solve a good number of issues in one shot.
     
  17. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Nice post Dave, and A-Fricken-Men!
     
  18. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Score one for the Doughboys.

    High court rules cross doesn't violate separation of church and state - CNN.com

    High court rules cross doesn't violate separation of church and state

    Washington (CNN) -- The Supreme Court narrowly ruled Wednesday that a white cross, erected as a war memorial and sitting on national parkland in the Mojave Desert, does not violate the constitutional separation of church and state.

    The 5-4 conservative majority said Congress acted properly when it tried to transfer land around the Mojave Memorial Cross to veterans groups, an effort to eliminate any Establishment Clause violation. The land then would have been declared a national memorial. A federal appeals panel had blocked that land swap.

    "It is reasonable to interpret the congressional designation as giving recognition to the historical meaning that the cross had attained," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. "The Constitution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion's role in society."

    But even among the conservatives who voted to allow the cross to stand, there was strong disagreement about how similar disputes should be settled, an indication of the contentious nature of church-and-state cases.

    At issue before the justices was whether the display violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

    More specifically, can one individual who protests the cross have legal standing to take his case to court and prevail? And do congressional efforts to minimize the appearance of a constitutional violation carry any weight?

    The 6-foot Latin cross was first erected in 1934 by a local Veterans of Foreign Wars unit in a remote part of the California desert to honor war dead. It has been rebuilt several times over the years, and Easter services take place on the site annually.

    The land now is part of the Mojave National Preserve, a unit of the National Park Service, encompassing 1.6 million acres, or 2,500 square miles.

    A former Park Service employee brought suit, saying such symbols represent government endorsement of the Christian faith. A federal appeals court ultimately agreed, and rejected a move by Congress in 2003 to transfer the tiny portion of land where the cross sits back to the VFW, as a privately held national memorial. The area in question is a prominent outcropping known as Sunrise Rock.

    Kennedy said the cross represents more than just a religion, echoing the views of the VFW.

    "Here one Latin cross in the desert evokes far more than religion," he wrote. "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 court sent the case back to the lower federal courts to resolve, and said the man who brought the suit, Frank Buono, could continue his legal fight over how the future land transfer is handled. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas said they would go further and end all litigation of the land transfer.

    The appeals court noted that the land transfer effort singled out the VFW for special treatment and that officials had rejected a proposal to erect a nearby Buddhist stupa, or shrine. Jewish and Muslim veterans groups in the U.S. say the Mojave Cross symbolizes the sacrifice of Christian veterans, excluding other faiths.

    In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens -- who is retiring at the end of the term in June -- said the land transfer does not remedy the constitutional concerns.

    "Such measures would not completely end the government endorsement of this cross," he wrote, "as the land would have been transferred in a manner favoring the cross and the cross would remain designated as a national memorial."

    As the only war veteran on the court, Stevens, who served in World War II as an intelligence officer, added, "I certainly agree that the nation should memorialize the service of those who fought and died in World War I, but it cannot lawfully do so by continued endorsement of a starkly sectarian message."

    The American Civil Liberties Union is representing Buono. Attorney Peter Eliasberg told the court "the government had favored one party to come on, contrary to the government's own regulations, and erect a permanent symbol, while not allowing others."

    The case is Salazar v. Buono (08-472).
     
  19. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Heh. I was just searching for this thread to post this same thing! Supreme Court got this one right, although I don't see any reason why there should have ever been any dissenting votes.

    :salute:
     
  20. Maestro

    Maestro Active Member

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    As an atheist I have to object here.

    None of us are against such things as the names of cities, counties, holidays, etc... (Except for the most extremist ones.) They are part of our culture and been used since their creation.

    You can be for the separation of state and religion but still have judgement. (I am a good example of that, myself.)

    However, I must admit that I don't understand the point of those wanting the cross to be taken down... It's a monument to WWI veterans who's been there for over 75 years. So, as far as I'm concerned, they can leave it there and STFU...

    But it is only my opinion...
     
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