H.R. 290

H.R. 290 has just passed the House;
Now it looks for the Senate’s approval.
It’s meant to address the debate on the cross
And prevent its untimely removal

A memorial site is a wonderful thing;
It reminds us of terrible losses
Defenders of freedom who lay down their lives
And all of them, big fans of crosses

(Now, the Jewish, the Muslim, the atheist troops—
Shall we see that their rights are protected?
That’s not the intent of this bill; what it does
Is get Hunter, its scribe, re-elected.)

H.R. 290, the War Memorial Protection Act, was passed by the House yesterday. Interesting–the AP article appears to have (or to have initially had) the accurate title “House Bills Promote Religion At War Memorials” (still does, here). San Diego’s KGTV site, though, appears to have changed it to “Bill Protecting Religious Symbols On War Memorials Passed.” At least one comment at the site, though, asks why the word “promote” was used, though.

The executive summary:

H.R. 290 would authorize the inclusion of religious symbols as part of military monuments that are established or acquired by the U.S. government or military memorials established in cooperation with the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC). The bill would specifically state that in order to recognize the religious background of members of the United States Armed Forces, religious symbols may be included as part of a memorial or monument commemorating the service of the United States Armed Forces.

Its sponsor is Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) of San Diego, who probably knows it is unconstitutional.


  1. The Lorax says

    Going by the executive summary, I would interpret that as, “If a soldier is to be given a memorial, this bill would allow that memorial to reflect the religious preference of the soldier.” I could see that applying to tombstones, like in Arlington. Of course, if the symbol was not to reflect a single soldier but the entire armed forces, that would clearly be showing a preference.

    Still, the background to the bill is more telling:

    “Since the lawsuit was initially filed, several remedies were attempted to avoid having the cross removed by order of the courts, including transferring the property to a non-profit—for which San Diego was sued for showing a preference—and the federal government taking the land by eminent domain. Indeed, the Department of Defense took possession of the property in 2006. Subsequently, the federal government was sued and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the cross unconstitutional in January 2011.”

    So, they get a lot of heat for having the monument, so they have the Department of Defense take possession of the property so that they can keep the monument up. Brilliant, now it’s the federal government that is respecting that establishment of religion, and so they got sued and it was rightly ruled unconstitutional. Furthermore, that paragraph pretty much says, “We want this to stay so we’re going to do everything we can to keep it there.” How interesting that H.R. 290 is intended for exactly that.

  2. Randomfactor says

    I’d like to see an amendment that if the monument honors two or more soldiers, said monument must include appropriate symbols for each memorialized soldier’s faith.

    Including Jedi, as appropriate.

    Assume this one’s intended to die in the Senate anyway.

  3. Cuttlefish says

    Of course, the tombstones are already individual and personal, and religious symbols are perfectly fine on them, so if that is the interpretation, the bill is unnecessary.

    My reading of it is also not quite what I think the sponsor wants–it says “religious symbols may be included”, and the plural stands out to me. The free exercise clause would mean that this bill must allow any group to install its own symbols at any site. The Mount Soledad cross would be joined by a crescent, a six-sided star, crosses other than the Roman Cross, perhaps a Flying Spaghetti Monster (sauce be upon him), and of course all the appropriate symbols for the disenfranchised religions I have overlooked.

  4. timberwoof says

    http://g.co/maps/wmjb8 shows the big cross on top of Mt. Davidson in San Francisco. It used to be on city property until it was realized that that was a case of the government showing preference to one religion. The city sold the land to an Armenian church group who rededicated it as a monument to those who died in the Armenian Holocaust of WWI, an equitable solution that pissed off nobody except the Turks.

    The property is open to the city park and for all practical purposes it’s all still one park. The clearing is a nice place to watch the air shows during Fleet Week.

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