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Jul 22 2013

Judge Blocks Christian War Memorial

A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction against the placement of a clearly Christian memorial to soldiers planned for public property in Lake Elsinore, California. The suit was filed by the American Humanist Association, which issued a press release:

The AHA filed suit in federal court May 31, 2013, to stop the Lake Elsinore City Council from funding and constructing the display at the city-owned baseball stadium. The city council approved the project in November 2012, despite constitutional concerns. The AHA’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter at that time to the city council explaining that the cross monument would violate the separation of church and state required by the Constitution, but no reply was received. The city approved the design and allocated approximately $50,000 of city funds for construction and installation.

“It is a violation of the First Amendment when a government body unnecessarily chooses a divisively religious means of honoring the country’s veterans,” said William Burgess, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center participating at yesterday’s hearing. “We are pleased that Judge Wilson has seen the necessary merit in our case to stop the religious memorial from being erected on public grounds.”

You can read the full ruling here. This is not the end of the case, it’s just a preliminary injunction, but the judge clearly indicates that the city is likely to lose at trial. The judge noted that members of the city council made many statements explicitly tying the design, which has a soldier bowing before a cross, to Christianity:

Then-Mayor Pro Tem Hickman stated, “I feel sorry for us that we as Christians cannot show the cross because [of] the First Amendment, okay, it really is a shame that our society is leaning that way.” Councilmember Melendez stated that it was a“sad reflection on our society when as a Christian nation, one of the principles upon which we were founded is something we are forced to hide in society specifically with reverence to our veterans, the very people who have fought to protect our religious freedom…”

At that point, Councilmember Robert Magee made a motion tocontinue the item and direct City staff to discuss the design with regard to the “religious references.” Mayor ProTem Hickman objected, stating “I’m not going to sit here and wait for people to denigrate my beliefs, okay, and so I’ll give them two weeks.” Mayor Tisdale suggested that it would not be possible to have a new design in two weeks; Mayor Pro Tem Hickman responded, “Then we don’t have to change it.”…

Councilmember Melendez noted that the cross had been “controversial” but that the monument, asproposed, honored “all veterans,” and concluded that Monument had “nothing to do with religion.”

Funny how it has to do with religion and how it “denigrates” Christianity to choose not to have the cross there, then it suddenly has “nothing to do with religion” later. And no, it does not honor all veterans, it only honors Christian veterans. The local residents speaking out at the city council meetings certainly knew that it was about religion. One said, “[The cross] needs to stay just the way it is…This is a symbol for all denominations of religion if anybody knows anything about religion.” Another said, “I am in favor of any design promoting Bible morality.”

As always happens in such cases, the city council tried to invent an entirely new and non-religious rationale for the explicitly religious nature of the monument, but the judge noted that the legislative history of the monument clearly showed this to be false. To accept that the legally convenient position of the city council in regard to the purpose of that design was accurate, the judge said, “this Court would have to ignore the entire sequence of events leading up to the approval” of the monument.

37 comments

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  1. 1
    raven

    This (a cross) is a symbol for all denominations of religion if anybody knows anything about religion.”

    Stupid or lying?

    I doubt the Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Moslems, Pagans, or any of dozens of other religions would agree with that. Even some xian derived groups, i.e. the Mormons, don’t use a cross.

  2. 2
    Modusoperandi

    And no, it does not honor all veterans, it only honors Christian veterans.”

    There are no atheists in foxholes. Or, come to think about it, during coitus. They never mention that one.

  3. 3
    gshelley

    Stupid or lying?

    I doubt the Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Moslems, Pagans, or any of dozens of other religions would agree with that. Even some xian derived groups, i.e. the Mormons, don’t use a cross.

    or has a selective definition of what “religion” is – ie those others aren’t “real” religions

  4. 4
    raven

    or has a selective definition of what “religion” is – ie those others aren’t “real” religions.

    Could be. The fundies make that claim often. A common belief is that the myriad Hindu deities are really just names of demons.

    Xians make up 28% of the world’s population. Which means that the vast majority of the 7 billion people belong to Fake Religions.

    A large but variable number of xians are Fake Xians, belonging to the wrong sects. The number of True Xians could be as low as a few hundred, depending on which xian you ask.

    A few hundred True xians out of 7 billion people isn’t much. That particular xian god isn’t very powerful. He might even be dead or hanging around Kpax IV, 50 million liight years away.

  5. 5
    Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    [Proposed memorial] does not honor all veterans, it only honors Christian veterans.

    Given the attempt to place on government property, I’d argue it does not honor some Christian veterans. It doesn’t honor secularists who happen to also be Christians.

  6. 6
    richardelguru

    Modus:
    Shouting “OGodOGodOGod…” during coitus does not necessarily stop you being atheist.

    (btw interesting, and not totally unrelated fact: here in Plano, TX we have a road called ‘Coit’—They were going to call it ‘Coitus’, but someone interrupted them)

  7. 7
    d.c.wilson

    [Proposed memorial] does not honor all veterans, it only honors Christian veterans.

    I would actually respect these people more if they just said that those are the only veterans that count in their minds. Their claims are so ridiculous and self-contradictory that I can’t imagine anyone being able to say them with a straight face. Is there some school where they learn to bare false witness so blatantly without cracking a smile?

  8. 8
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    I’d go further and guess that they aren’t really honoring veterans at all, but their god, using veterans as cover. They are promoting christian society and a christian military.

    If they are christians who want to honor veterans, that cross should be bowing before the soldier. Somewhere off public property, funded privately.

  9. 9
    chilidog99

    The real question is this—

    Why did the city of Lake Elsinore pay $50,000 for a 5,000 piece of granite with Internet clip art etched on it?

    Who got the kickback for walking that through the approval process?

  10. 10
    naturalcynic

    On the authority of BillO, it honors a philosophy, not a religion.

  11. 11
  12. 12
    vmanis1

    Am I the only person who thinks that Lake Elsinore ought to be populated by people named Claudius, Ophelia, Polonius, and of course Hamlet?

  13. 13
    Ellie

    Looks to me, from a quick Google, that there are at least 40 churches in the town. If this is so important, why can’t the memorial be built on church property? Either it’s religious (and from the cross, I’m guessing…yes, and Christian) or it’s not (perhaps because the flag is bigger than the cross?). At any rate, it’s one or the other and if the former, it doesn’t belong on public property. Even this Christian knows that.

  14. 14
    jenny6833a

    “Is there some school where they learn to bare false witness so blatantly without cracking a smile?”

    AFAIK, none of the Public Indecency laws in America mention a body part called “false witness.” What part of the human anatomy is that?

  15. 15
    John Pieret

    Has anyone, on either side, noticed just how figging ugly their alleged “memorial” is? Dead soldiers everywhere should sue for esthetic abuse.

  16. 16
    otrame

    Take a look at the proposed monument. The image of the soldier kneeling is so poorly drawn that it looks very much as if it was drawn by someone in a middle school art class.

  17. 17
    Doug Little

    otrame @16,

    Couple that with the completely original idea of throwing in an eagle for good measure.

    ‘merica, Fuck Yeah!

  18. 18
    billdaniels

    #2: How come no one ever yells, “Oh, Cthulhu!” during sex? Or. “Oh, FSM!” This proves that there is only one god. Oh, god! Oh, god!…..Sorry I got carried away thinking (reminiscing) about sex.

  19. 19
    Reginald Selkirk

    vmanis1 #12: Am I the only person who thinks that Lake Elsinore ought to be populated by people named Claudius, Ophelia, Polonius, and of course Hamlet?

    Well, “populated” usually refers to living people, and all of those are dead (not to mention fictional).

  20. 20
    Modusoperandi

    vmanis1 “Am I the only person who thinks that Lake Elsinore ought to be populated by people named Claudius, Ophelia, Polonius, and of course Hamlet?”
    I’ve never met those people, but I’m pretty sure Elsinore refers to Strange Brew.

  21. 21
    thebookofdave

    @vmanis1 #12

    Am I the only person who thinks that Lake Elsinore ought to be populated by people named Claudius, Ophelia, Polonius, and of course Hamlet?

    You beat me to it, only I was thinking it should have a brewery, employing Bob & Doug McKenzie. Great minds really do think alike!

  22. 22
    chilidog99

    All of the images are Internet clip art.

  23. 23
    chilidog99

    If they are going to do cheesy art, they could do a lout better.

    How about full sized, bronze versions of the plastic army men?

    You could have the prone guy, the kneeling bazooka guy, the grenade throwing guy.

  24. 24
    Doug Little

    You could have the prone guy, the kneeling bazooka guy, the grenade throwing guy.

    How about the deformed by an air bubble during the molding process guy?

  25. 25
    Modusoperandi

    And bent rifle guy.

  26. 26
    Doug Little

    Yes, bent rifle guy was a very popular one indeed.

  27. 27
    Abby Normal

    So they added a Satr of David or two. See, it’s totally inclusive now!

    /snark.

  28. 28
    Abby Normal

    *Star of David, of course.

  29. 29
    timberwoof

    Thanks for the link, Reginald Selkirk. I’m glad the VA got out of the business of respecting establishments of religion.

    Soldiers’ deaths are a trying thing for a family. If their grief can be ameliorated in some small measure by allowing symbols important to them on the headstones, that is a god thing. And I’m sure that the dead soldiers’ Christian neighbors won’t mind. And their families can reflect on what freedoms were defended.

    Ugh! What cheesy art to put on a memorial! It looks like a mid-to-late-’90s Web Site That Sucks. In addition to being a cheap mishmash of clip art excuse for graphic design, it’s clear that they wanted the Christian cross to be prominent.

    If we’re meant to honor the soldiers, it’s not clear to me why the memorial should show a soldier kneeling. Maybe he’s supposed to be grateful to God that He fragged his buddy instead?

  30. 30
    thebookofdave

    Of course, @Abby Normal, it takes a Judeo-Christian memorial to honor all of our fallen heroes, amirite?

  31. 31
    Crudely Wrott

    Fifty grand for that conglomeration of geometric primitives and kitsch?
    Shit, I can knock out better material by stubbing my big toe on a frozen mule turd down by the spring house in the wee and cold hours and recording the result with a Brownie Bullet!

    Fuggin’ kids . . . got less sense than that old mule had. At least it didn’t crowd my lawn . . .

  32. 32
    martinc

    Abby, “Satr of David” doesn’t even figure on the typo leaderboard when chilidog @ 23 manages: “If they are going to do cheesy art, they could do a lout better.”

  33. 33
    Doug Little

    Wow I left 3 comments on that site that reported on the memorial and all have been taken down. No wonder there is only Christian pov’s and not very many at that.

  34. 34
    Michael Heath

    Doug,

    The website/page you reference in your comment @ 33 is not in Ed’s blog post. Care to provide that link?

  35. 35
    chilidog99

    I’d be a lout if I didn’t share this particularly funny/stupid comment gem that i found on this topic.

    The religious symbols on a monument have nothing to do with establishing a religion. These religions have been around for thousands of years longer than our Constitution, therefore, Congress is not establishing them.

    LOL

  36. 36
    jnorris

    Mayor Pro Tem Hickman’s whine means none of the Christian churches want the memorial on their grounds and does he.

  37. 37
    Doug Little

    Michael @34,

    It was the link in otrame’s comment @16.

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