The Camp Pendleton Cross

A group of Marines dragged a cross up a hill
To honor the loss of their brothers
In a land where we’re equal, according to law,
Though some are more equal than others.

The cross on the hill is a trivial thing,
So “establishment” need not apply
It isn’t religious—no need to remove it—
Besides which, I’d dare you to try.

Those atheist bastards who chose to complain
Are requesting divine retribution!
And no one believes in their flimsy excuse
That they’re fighting for our Constitution!

This nation was founded by Christians, you know—
In this country, majority rules!
We don’t need to hide behind legalese crap
Like those arrogant atheist fools!

Don’t lecture Marines on the duty they’ve sworn—
What they’re tasked to protect and defend;
They know what the law is; they know very well,
And if not, what the hell, they’ll pretend.

Rant, after jump: (oh, actually, before the jump, a note that PZ links to a poll on the topic you might want to express your opinion on.)

Ok, actually, I won’t rant. I’ll link to the Atheists in Foxholes, and their considerably calmer coverage, which I think strikes a very reasonable tone. I’ll excerpt it here–go there for the full animal:

This issue has launched quite a firestorm, so I do want to add some clarifications and respond to some of the arguments I’ve heard.

  • Some have said this is no big deal.  They generally say so in all caps and follow up with some sort of threat indicating that it is, in fact, a big deal.
  • Some have argued that the “Marine Corps” should keep it’s monument. They generally make this argument right before or after insisting that these individuals were acting is private citizens so it should not be construed as any government endorsement.
  • If this was put up by private citizens, why did they opt not to use their private land?  Why are private officials erecting permanent structures on federal land?
  • Some point out that the cross was put up in 2003 originally.  The implication is that being wrong for eight years is better than being wrong for a week.
  • Many (probably most commenters) ask why atheists are so “offended” or that most Marines like the monument.  This has nothing to do with people’s feelings or a popularity contest about the monument.  MAAF represents thousands of military personnel, including Marines at Camp Pendleton, and our rights matter.  The government must not show bias towards any religious belief.
  • Some point out that whole units have been marched up to the cross by their commanders.  Two videos show a long hike to install the cross and one unit commander inviting his Sergeant Major to give a Christian prayer to a mandatory formation under this cross.  Marine commanders have forced their troops into a pilgrimage to a Christian cross?!?  This deserves a separate investigation by itself.
  • Jay Sekulow at the Christian ACLJ says the cross isn’t Christian.  A billion Christians worship the cross as a symbol of their most deeply-held beliefs, so I’ll let them object to the ACLJ.  Dave Niose in Psychology Today questions the casting of the cross as a secular icon.  Attorney Randall Hamud San Diego more accurately lays out the legal challenges to the federal installation of a religious symbol.   If this was solely about honoring fallen brothers, why confuse the message with an obvious and unmistakable religious symbol?
  • The example of cemetery crosses is also often brought up.  These cases are entirely different as they represent the wishes of the individual buried in that plot.  MAAF absolutely supports religious emblems on federal cemetery grave markers.
  • Other religious monuments such as the Chaplain Memorial at Arlington are proper monuments to the contributions to the US by explicitly religious personnel.  They are properly labelled as religious, approved by the command, and placed in such a manner as to avoid the appearance of bias.  This also applies to various places of worship that are occasionally customized for religious purposes, such as Mosques, Catholic Chapels, or Wiccan circles to augment the existing general-use chapels.
  • Other memorials are biased toward Christianity and ought properly to be removed to private property.  The Camp Pendleton cross is just one of many.  The Mt Soledad Cross, the Mojave Desert Cross, the Montana Jesus statue, and the Utah state trooper crosses are all examples.  The Argonne Cross at Arlington, a 1921 monument erected “In memory of our men in France” also excludes all non-Christians.  This cross now memorializes a time when our military had nearly no recognition for anyone not Christian and was segregated by both race and gender.  We’ve come a long way forward since then.
  • There are also examples of non-military religious monuments on federal land, such as the location of the first baptism in California, which rests on what is now Camp Pendleton.  This sad memorial of a Catholic Priest conscripting two young Native American girls into his faith helps us to remember the means European settlers used to take control of the New World.  This is a good example of an authorized historical landmark with religious significance, properly labeled and approved.
  • I leave it to Christians, military leaders, and police authorities to respond appropriately to the long list of insults and threats directed toward MAAF and MAAF members.

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