Jun 14 2013

An unconstitutional poll

A Republican legislator is trying to give religion yet another special privilege. He wants to insert a provision into a defense bill that says the federal government can ignore the first amendment when it comes to putting up monuments.

“This provision creates a foundation in federal law for emblems of belief on war memorials and monuments,” Hunter said Thursday. “Emblems of belief … should be protected.”

Oh, really? Why? So you can only honor those people who have the right beliefs? What happens when, say, someone puts up a memorial to the Muslims who died in New York?

Go vote on the poll.

Do you think the Federal government should protect historic "emblems of belief" like the Mount Soledad cross?

YES 74%

NO 25%


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  1. 1

    It had swung the other way by the time I voted 23% yes and 77% no… Maybe the good people of San Diego are speaking out already.

  2. 2

    Yup definitely pre-pharyngulated

  3. 3

    The wording of the poll relies pretty heavily on an availability heuristic too, with the given example of “like the Mount Soledad cross.” If that’s the only example that is given, then even moderate Christians might have a tendency to shrug and say, “sure, what’s the problem?” But I wonder what the results would look like (without pharyngulating) if the poll asked the question more honestly and included PZ’s example of an “emblem” honoring Muslims who died in New York?

  4. 4
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    Yes: 13%
    No: 86%

    No idea what happened to the remaining 1% :-/

    However, it’s still enough to make me laugh :D

  5. 5

    IANAL but I always thought that the whole point of a constitution is that Congress shall make no law that contradicts it.

  6. 6
    Lynna, OM

    Regarding the Mount Soledad cross, one of the comments below the poll notes that this is an emblem of Christ, and that the “veteran” was added later.

    So, it is an emblem of christians using sneaky means to slip their religion into secular life. All they have to do is make some claim about a military connection, and all is well?

    Nope. If religious groups wish to erect monuments, that’s fine. They just have to do it on their own private land.

  7. 7
    Lynna, OM

    Also from the comments: ” … Jews weren’t even allowed to live in La Jolla when this cross was put up….” So, no Star of David then.

    There are also comments claiming that anyone not promoting a “christian government” is un-American.

  8. 8

    I’m from San Diego and went to UCSD long ago. I have always hated that eye-sore cross. I recently called a UCSD service and had the recorded message for Memorial Day which said, “God bless our troops and God bless America.” No kidding, at one of the top science schools in the U.S.! I left them the message that their message was unconstitutional. Unfortunately I still have to contact them again.

  9. 9
    Gregory in Seattle

    “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.” – United States Constitution, Article VI, Clause 2

    As is the case with the Bible, these idiots worship it without ever bothering to read it for comprehension. As an amendment to the Constitution, the First Amendment IS the Constitution. No mere law can be made to overrule, qualify or otherwise limit it, period.

  10. 10

    I do love your US politicians. They make the UK self-serving hypocrites in government seem almost like decent human beings…

    …I did say ‘almost’

  11. 11

    Voted. It’s at 9% vs 90% now. Where did that last 1% go? There isn’t an option for “Undecided.”

  12. 12

    Ditto. How to you manage to have spoiled ballots in an online poll?

  13. 13

    Religious symbols on federal war memorials are wildly inappropriate. If we were talking about, say, individual gravestones with religious symbols at a military cemetery, that might be different, as long as each gravestone’s particular religious symbol lined up with the deceased’s own religion (where applicable) and there wasn’t a preference for any particular one. If you use a single gigantic religious symbol to “memorialize” everyone who fought in a given war, though, that’s absolutely a First Amendment problem, and as Gregory said, a federal law isn’t going to override the Constitution. (Not to mention that, as Lynna noted above, any “memorial” aspect of the Soledad cross was shoehorned in after its placement.)

  14. 14
    Robert B.

    Where did that last 1% go? There isn’t an option for “Undecided.”

    Didn’t you know? The 1% have options that the rest of us don’t.

  15. 15

    “This provision creates a foundation in federal law for emblems of belief on war memorials and monuments,” Hunter said Thursday. “Emblems of belief … should be protected.”

    The hidden caveat being, “as long as it’s a belief I can agree with”.

  16. 16

    I would have been voted yes if the question had been about “emblems of belief and unbelief”.

  17. 17

    So you can only honor those people who have the right beliefs? What happens when, say, someone puts up a memorial to the Muslims who died in New York?

    See, this is why Christians strongly supported the First Amendment at the time the American Constitution was written. They were quite reasonably terrified of Christian-on-Christian persecution. “Sure, you believe the cracker is magic, but is it magic because of transubstantiation or consubstantiation?” People got killed in large numbers over that sort of thing in Europe’s then-recent history. Baptists were legitimately afraid of an Episcopalian pogrom.

    I kind of miss hardcore fundamentalist squabbling over details. Nowadays most of the various brands of Christianity are content to say that as long as you hate abortion and gay marriage and vote Republican you’re in the club. (amazingly depressing that those are now the criteria) Organized Christianity is a lot more threatening as one big herd united by political activism than it was as a hodgepodge of denominations squabbling over soteriology.

  18. 18

    For those asking, the poll allows people to vote without selecting one of the options.

  19. 19

    Of course, the article lies when it says the cross is ‘historical’. What’s historical about it? Should we protect burning crosses on people’s lawns just because they’ve been lit for 50 years?

  20. 20

    It’s 88% no vs. 11% yes now. I suspect that the missing 1% comes from a rounding error.

  21. 21

    The ACLU suggested as one option that the land the cross is on be sold to the highest bidder. That is obviously the best solution as I am sure Christians have the money to win such an auction. They get to keep their cross, separation of church and state is maintained and the government gets some money. My understanding is that the only reason they didn’t settle this in a reasonable way is that politicians preferred to grandstand rather than just following the law.

  22. 22

    There is a nearby church that has offered to move the cross to its private property, but the Cross Bearers refused this compromise. They like using the cross as a propaganda campaign more than they like the cross itself.

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