Crosses: Hypothetical v. Actual
rs at robertsheridan.com
Fri Apr 30 10:49:59 PDT 2010
PS: The test: Tell me why you want the cross and I'll tell you whether
its a violation.
We have a way of asking the wrong questions, as though to ask the right
question is to risk giving away the game.
On 4/30/2010 9:41 AM, Robert Sheridan wrote:
> (Mt. Davidson, supra, Wiki).
> Suppose I believe that the FA guaranty that government should
> 'establish' no religion, meaning to prefer one to another, is
> correct. Further that some of my religious friends have the notion
> that the symbol of their faith should be erected on my public land.
> What does that make me? After all, in America, I have the right to my
> own beliefs.
> And what does that make them?
> What is it that urges someone to build, or to propose that government
> build for him, a cross that is 103' feet tall, on a mountaintop,
> elevation 900+', overlooking the city, out of concrete and steel, to
> hold Easter services, and to get the president of the U.S. (FDR, in
> the case of the Mt. Davidson cross), to illuminate the cross?
> What is it that impels someone to (a) institute prayer in the public
> schools, (b) object to their removal, as in Engle v. Vitale, and (c)
> resort to subterfuge to permit such banned prayer by promoting the
> alleged right of students to say their private prayers in public on
> the pretext that these are private actions not attributable to the
> government running the public schools, or by promoting a moment of
> silent prayer?
> Courts and lawyers are supposed to be good at analyzing seemingly
> complex matters for what they really are. A sham deed can be no more
> than a security instrument, for instance.
> What seems to be the difficulty in recognizing certain things for what
> they are? Prayer to whom, or what, for example? Obviously the
> promoters of school prayer and public monuments of a religious nature
> have something in mind. We can be reasonably sure that they are not
> promoting the erection of a 103' tall concrete and steel seated
> Buddha, or a 103' tall concrete and steel mezuzah, on a mountaintop,
> although there is the old gag that this is not a cross, it's a mezuzah
> with handle-bars, possibly invented by a former yeshiva student tired
> of the all the fooling around.
> If establishing the cross on public land for the public to see is not
> a step in the direction of government establishment of religion, why
> not then augment it with other harmless activities such as prayer in
> school and the placement of Ten Commandment icons in civic buildings?
> If you doubt that this is religious activity, see who objects to their
> removal. Avowed Christians of one ilk or another. Suddenly
> government cannot support them in their efforts to proselytize
> others. Is this not a commandment of their religion? Isn't this why
> we see such things?
> Isn't a great deal of the legal hair-splitting we're discussing merely
> an effort to distinguish away what is there in plain sight for all to
> see? A 103' tall concrete and steel icon that people of a certain
> faith pray before in mass ceremonies? It's not as though they don't
> have the right to hire a stadium to conduct mass, as a private matter,
> such as when the pope visits NYC and the privately owned Yankee
> Stadium is secured to accommodate thousands of participants.
> What I see in such controversies is an exercise in self-centered
> arrogance, the feeling that my faith-needs come before yours, so to
> hell with you.
> My right to be left alone (Brandeis's most fundamental right, in
> Olmstead, the famous wiretap case) is being infringed upon by the
> claim of a right by religious others to shove their faith down my
> unwilling throat. I hadn't thought that they had this right in the
> U.S., but since we keep arguing about it, apparently they do. And so
> the fight continues, destined not to subside any time soon.
> One of the striking things about the argument in such cases is the
> evasion practiced by those seeking to uphold their claim of right to
> engage in the school prayer, the cross-building, and the public
> displays of religious symbols, theirs, in city halls, public buildings
> such as courthouses, public parks, etc. These good folk seem to have
> an aversion to stating their motives, their motivation, their intent.
> What is their intent? To satisfy what urge? To say that "My religion
> enjoys government approval and support while yours doesn't, nyah,
> nyah, nyah?"
> To invoke the alleged blessings of their god on people who may not
> necessarily think that their god, as interpreted by their religious
> leaders, is all that wise, powerful, and benevolent?
> I see a failure to engage, in this debate, on the issue of what is
> really going on.
> If, hypothetically, one of the other religious groups moved to erect,
> out of concrete and steel, 103' tall, a religious work on a mountain
> overlooking a city, but they claimed that it wasn't really a religious
> symbol but a work of art or history or an emblem of either a common or
> universal culture, wouldn't you expect the cross-building types to ask
> what is really going on here? Wouldn't they say that we ought to be
> able clearly to see through such claims as window-dressing, sham
> arguments to get the thing built and to keep it there in the face of
> the policy that government is not supposed to be in the religion
> business and vice-versa?
> It would certainly be interesting to see why the proponents of such
> public religious observances feel that they are not religious at all,
> you see, but fight like hell when asked to please cut it out, they're
> infringing on the right of people who don't share their views to be
> let alone.
> Is there something about addressing this question that is taboo?
> I say let's break this taboo.
> After all, this is America and we ought to be able to speak of such
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