Looming ominously over the landscape

CFI on the Supreme Court ruling on the Bladensburg cross:

Today’s ruling on the constitutionality of the Bladensburg cross makes plain the Supreme Court’s allegiance to the religious right and its contempt for the separation of church from state, said the Center for Inquiry.

The Bladensburg Peace Cross is a 40-foot concrete Latin Cross located on state land in Maryland and maintained at taxpayer expense.

“Rather than uphold the Establishment Clause, the bedrock principle of liberal democracy that bars the state from endorsing religion, this Supreme Court is clearly determined to see it ripped from the Constitution and thrown in the trash,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel. “The very suggestion that a gigantic cross, maintained by taxpayers, and looming ominously over the landscape does not imply an endorsement of Christianity is utter madness. That this Orwellian redefinition of facts and language has been sanctified by the highest court in the land is simply frightening.”

The Bladensburg Cross was dedicated in 1925, and initially stood on private land. However, in 1961 the land was turned over to the state, and the cross has been maintained at tax payer expense since then. It stands on a traffic circle in the middle of a busy public road, illuminated at night.

“No symbol represents Christianity more fully and obviously than the Latin cross,” continued Little. “To those driving in Maryland’s D.C. suburbs, this cross stands stark and alone as a public declaration of the Christian nature of government. It dismisses the equal citizenship not only of those Marylanders who hold a different faith or none at all, but also callously ignores the sacrifice of countless military personnel who were atheist or non-Christian. The wall of separation now has a 40-foot cross-shaped hole in it.”

In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg correctly addressed the sectarian nature of this ruling and its disrespect for both non-believers and followers of non- Christian religions, writing, “Today the Court erodes that neutrality commitment, diminishing precedent designed to preserve individual liberty and civic harmony in favor of a ‘presumption of constitutionality for longstanding monuments, symbols, and practices.’” The display of the Latin cross, “the ‘defining symbol’ of Christianity,” conveys “a message of exclusion” to non-believers. Justice Ginsburg is correct in observing that the “principal symbol of Christianity around the world should not loom over public thoroughfares, suggesting official recognition of that religion’s paramountcy.”

Now this is interesting. I was just wibbling on about what we mean by “exclusion” a few hours ago, pointing out that some kinds of exclusion are desirable and necessary. Some are, and some are not. I think government sponsorship of religion in general, and especially of one religion in particular, is neither desirable nor necessary.

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