Atheists Removing Crosses August 4, 2006

Atheists Removing Crosses

In Utah, when highway patrol officers are killed on the job, they are memorialized by a cross. It doesn’t matter what religion the person is or if the person is an atheist. A cross is put up. On government property.

According to Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Jeff Nigbur, “We chose the cross because the cross is the international sign of peace, and it has no religious significance in it.”

No, a dove is a symbol for peace. A blue ribbon is a symbol for peace. Or maybe even the Y in a circle.

A cross symbolizes Christianity.

And you probably figured out where this is going. Some atheists would like to see the crosses removed. They filed a lawsuit in December, and while it’s still going to court, they lost a motion today to have the crosses taken down before the trial gets started.

There’s no way of making this request without coming off as mean-spirited, cruel and like stereotypical atheists. Others may say: It’s just a cross and we’re honoring the fallen troops. Who would be so mean as to try to stop that?! Only the mean atheists.

One article on the case had a place where comments could be made. Read them. They’re appalling. Is that supposed to be Christian love? To hear that atheists need to disappear entirely? Nearly every comment shows people relying on emotion instead of reason.

I understand this all seems petty for most people and certainly there are more important things to be worried about in the world. But let’s talk about why this suit has some merit.

  • The family is not picking out the religious symbol. The Utah Highway Patrol Association automatically puts up a cross endorsed by the state with a logo. This is taxpayer money funding one religion over all others.

Near where I live, there’s a stretch of road where a horrible accident happened a couple years ago around the fourth of July. Every time I drive by the area, I can see the crosses that the family put up on the side of the road. And I have no desire to take that away. No one should. It’s the family’s way to grieve.

But in this case, the family isn’t part of the process. If they wanted to put a cross up themselves, wonderful. As one atheist commenter wrote, he’d be fine with that as long as he could put a giant atheist symbol next to it (presumably if an atheist officer had died) without hassle. The atheists in the lawsuit are simply asking for a non-denominational symbol.

  • That said, it’s illegal in Utah to put up roadside memorials, period. According to Utah Law (here and here), private groups cannot put up monuments or memorials adjacent to Utah State Highways. Even private citizens who put up these memorials will have them removed if they are on government property.

Personally, I’m trying to understand why the families are opposed to removing the crosses on the grounds that the locations of them are sacred ground. The bodies are buried elsewhere… Still, the atheists filing the suit are not opposed to memorials being put up. They just ask for a neutral symbol.

How do we fix this? Don’t make the symbol automatically be a 12-foot cross. Let the families decide what they want (like at Arlington National Cemetery). And take the Utah Highway Patrol logo off of the symbols. Let the courts decide if any memorial should be placed on the sides of highways at all and leave it at that.

Keeping the crosses as they are could lead down a slippery slope of government endorsing Christianity. Somewhere, a line has to be drawn. The best solution is to keep government neutral on these issues. Let the families do as they wish.

[tags]Utah Highway Patrol, memorials, crosses, Christianity, atheism, atheists, American Atheists, symbol, Jeff Nigbur[/tags]

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  • Trent

    i am not nearly as educated as many and i do not mean any disrespect.. I am a christian and …looking at the big picture … Christian rights seem to be becoming very limited.. Not aloud to pray in a public school, where i live you can not display merry christmas in a store, Atheist are trying to have in god we trust taken out, and are also tryin to modify the pledge of allegiance . What kind if since does this make. Does the word god really offend people when they see it on money. Does seeing merry christmas? if i saw happy hanaka(spelling i know) in a store it would not offend me one bit. If u see me in school praying, does that really offend you, im not gonna push my religion on you. as far as putting crosses up for fallen soldiers or police officer, ect i really dont see what the issue is. although i def. see where atheist are comming from i just do not see why this is going to the supreme court. We already got enough issues in the world for believers and non believers of any religion to be “bickering” over an “offensive symbol” seems a bit childish to me.. again i mean no disrespect your beliefs are your belief. And i appologize if it seems like i am narrow minded

  • Gary Charbonneau

    Atheist are trying to have in god we trust taken out, and are also tryin to modify the pledge of allegiance . What kind if since does this make. Does the word god really offend people when they see it on money.

    “In God We Trust” is the national motto of the United States per an act of Congress in 1956. The phrase “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance by an act of Congress in 1954. Both acts contravene the First Amenment to the Constitution of the United States, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….” The reason why an atheist would find both acts offensive, aside from their unconstitutionality, is that their clear intent was and is to imply that one has to believe in God in order to be a good American, and therefore, that no atheist can be a good American.

    That is the sense it makes. Do you understand the point?

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Trent,
    No, I don’t think you are narrow minded. I think you want to understand and you want to be respectful, and those are very good things. What some atheists and also some Christians are concerned about is when public land, public property or public money is used to promote a particular religion over others. This is unfair to all the Americans who pay for all that as much as anyone, but who don’t share that religion. The Founding Fathers had their own various religious beliefs. Some had strong beliefs, some had hardly any, but they all remembered the terrible things that had happened in England and Europe when the kings and queens favored one religion over others. So the Founding Fathers said that their new democracy would allow all religions, and the government would not favor any and not deny any. The government was supposed to stay out of it. This was written in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

    Unfortunately, there are always some people who would like to throw out the First Amendment so they could have their religion be the official religion of the country. They have tried doing this in little steps so that others would not get too alarmed and would not fight back. The acts that put “In God We Trust” on money and added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance were two examples of these little steps toward a government sponsored religion. This would not be good even for Christians, because if it ever happens then even Christians will not be able to worship in the way they want, but will be told how to worship by the government. When was the last time you completely agreed with everything the government does? No, I don’t think you would like it.

    Like you, most atheists don’t feel offended if they see “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” in private stores. That is the freedom of the store owners and conflicts over such things are silly. If school kids want to pray in public school, they should be allowed to do so during their recess when those who want to can, and those who don’t want to don’t have to. The problems there happened when prayer was being held during class time and everyone was basically forced to pray whether they wanted to or not. That was forcing religion down the kids’ throats and was not fair and was against their freedom to choose.

    So Trent I hope you can see that these efforts to keep religion and government separate are protecting your rights as a Christian as much as the rights of Jews, Buddhists, Moslems, Hindus and atheists.

    We all must be free or no one is free.

    Thank you for asking about this. It’s important to everyone.

  • Trent

    appreciate richard, yes most of what you say makes sense, but somethings have been taken a little bit overboard. In middle and high school you do not have recess, when are you supposed to be able to pray? But other than that i pretty much see your point. I still however believe that this is a petty issue. Mabye because i am a christian and do not have to go throught the tribulations atheist have to when seeing words like in god we trust, and such. Thanks again though for clearing some things up richard

  • Darryl

    In middle and high school you do not have recess, when are you supposed to be able to pray?

    Let’s be accurate here. Most of the prayer-in-the-schools boosters are christians–folks that don’t need to prayer toward Mecca five times a day. So, let those kids pray before school, or after. This is a lame argument.

  • Richard Wade

    Trent, certainly the anger over these things gets overboard. I wish that both sides could discuss without the name calling and stereotyping. There are intelligent, sincere people in the dialogue but they get drowned out by the shouting, the sound bites and the political hay making.

    I stand shoulder to shoulder with religious people to keep us all free. The government on any level must never be our pulpit.

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