descriptive scholarly accounts of religious identityandjudicial behavior?

Volokh, Eugene VOLOKH at
Thu Apr 22 13:31:38 PDT 2010

	I would think that the use of a cross as a memorial is more respectful and solemn than its use as jewelry, entertainment, or humor.  Whether it's more or less dilutive of the religious message (the premise of the "religious conservatives should be bothered" argument) is hard to tell; I'd be inclined to say that it's less dilutive, because again it is a solemn use, but I can't be confident except to say that I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be any more dilutive.

	But returning to the point to which I'm responding:  I think that a religious conservative who doesn't object to any of these uses has an attitude that I would praise rather than condemning; and so I don't see why "religious conservatives should be bothered" by such uses.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Frank Cross [mailto:crossf at]
> Sent: Thursday, April 22, 2010 1:28 PM
> To: Volokh, Eugene; 'conlawprof at'
> Subject: RE: descriptive scholarly accounts of religious identityandjudicial
> behavior?
> Don't you see a difference between use of a cross in jewelry,
> entertainment, or humor and one at a gravesite.
> If the secularization of the image doesn't bother people, that's fine
> with me, I just consider it curious.
> At 03:13 PM 4/22/2010, Volokh, Eugene wrote:
> >         Again I'm puzzled by claims about what religious
> > conservatives "should be bothered" by.  I take it that one can be a
> > good religious conservative and take a somewhat different view, a
> > view that's more tolerant of the difference roles of symbols.
> >
> >         Certainly when it comes to nongovernmental speech, many of
> > us would like to encourage religious people to be accepting of the
> > different roles of symbols, and not view, say, the casual use of
> > the cross in jewelry, or in entertainment, or in humor as
> > blasphemous or otherwise reprehensible.  I think that if a
> > Christian conservative took such a view, many of us would praise
> > him for recognizing that symbols have multiple meanings, and that
> > religious symbols -- especially culturally significant ones -- can
> > acquire certain secular meanings without this having consequences
> > that should lead to upset for Christians or a worry about the
> > symbol's degradation.  Once one accepts this as to nongovernmental
> > speech, including either the jewelry choices of many individuals or
> > the entertainment materials used by large and influential
> > corporations, it seems to naturally follow to a large extent as to
> > much governmental speech as well.  If mass nongovernmental use of
> > the cross doesn't und!
> >  ercut the religious view of the cross (at least in any way that is
> > worth complaining about), then it's not clear that governmental use
> > of the cross would undercut it, either.
> >
> >         Now I'm sure there are arguments that governmental use of
> > the cross is somehow distinctively worse; and I suppose some
> > Christians are upset at nongovernmental use of the cross as well,
> > but just realize that there's nothing they can do about the
> > nongovernmental use.  But at the very least I would think that a
> > religious conservative who decided not to be bothered, and who
> > thinks the cross and its religious meaning will endure despite the
> > secular meaning that such a culturally and historically significant
> > symbol naturally acquires, should be seen as taking a reasonable
> > position.  So again I'm not sure why we should say that he "should
> > be bothered" by something that he isn't bothered by.
> >
> >         Eugene
> >
> > > -----Original Message-----
> > > From: Christopher Lund [mailto:ed9034 at]
> > > Sent: Thursday, April 22, 2010 12:53 PM
> > > To: 'Frank Cross'; Volokh, Eugene; conlawprof at
> > > Subject: RE: descriptive scholarly accounts of religious
> > identityandjudicial
> > > behavior?
> > >
> > > There are those people.  The Baptist Joint Committee raised some of these
> > > points in their brief wanting the cross taken down.  So did Doug Laycock's
> > > brief on behalf of Muslim servicemen.  The cross is the central symbol of
> > > the central event of Christianity.  A traditional position of Christians
> > > has been that the cross represents salvation for them, but damnation for
> > > others.  St. Paul saw this as _the_ message of the cross: "For the message
> > > of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are
> > > being saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:18).  When the government
> > > takes the position that the cross commemorates everyone, it undercuts the
> > > stronger view of what the cross means taken by St. Paul and a lot of
> > > modern-day Christians.  It erodes that stronger meaning.  Religious
> > > liberals and nonreligious people may not care about that.  Or they may
> > > want that stronger meaning eroded.  So they won't raise these objections.
> > > Religious conservatives should be more bothered about this, but some of
> > > them will take government-endorsed crosses on any legal grounds they can
> > > get.  They rightly know that the Supreme Court's rationalizations about
> > > the secular meaning of the cross will not bind the public; the people will
> > > see the cross as a cross.
> > >
> > > Best,
> > > Chris

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