Supreme Court Rules that a Cross is Not a Symbol of Christianity April 28, 2010

Supreme Court Rules that a Cross is Not a Symbol of Christianity

Last October, oral arguments began in front of the Supreme Court in the case of Salazar v. Buono.

Today, the decision was announced and it was a disappointing one.

I wrote about this before, and I’ll paraphrase a part of what I wrote then. Then, we’ll get to what happened today.

The background: In the 1930s, the Veterans of Foreign Wars put up a cross in the Mojave National Preserve in California as a war memorial. No other religious group is allowed to put up symbols in the area. Ten years ago, a former employee of the National Park Service, Frank Buono, sued, saying this was a violation of the establishment clause.

In the intervening decade, Congress and the courts have engaged in a legal tug of war. Congress passed measures forbidding removal of the cross, designating it as a national memorial and, finally, ordering the land under the cross to be transferred to private hands. Federal courts in California have insisted that the cross may not be displayed.

Supporters of church/state separation were on the side of Mr. Buono. If he won the case, then it could lead to removals of other religious symbols on public property.

The New York Times supported Mr. Buono as well:

On the merits, the appeals court was right that the cross must come down. By allowing a Christian cross, and not symbols of other faiths, on federal land, the government was favoring one religion over others. Also, Congress has designated the cross as a national memorial, which means that it continues to have official government endorsement.

It also sends a message that state and church are intertwined. A single cross does not, by itself, mean America has an established religion, but if the Supreme Court stops caring that the government is promoting a particular religion, we will be down the path toward having one.

During the Supreme Court hearing, Justice Antonin Scalia expressed the absurd notion that the cross is not a symbol of Christianity. Seriously. Check out a portion of his exchange (PDF) with ACLU attorney Peter Eliasberg:

MR. ELIASBERG: … I think it would be very odd indeed for the VFW to feel that it was free to take down the cross and put up, for example, a statues of a soldier which would honor all of the people who fought for America in World War I, not just Christians, and say: Well, we were free to do that because even though there’s the sign that says, this cross is designated to honor all the —

JUSTICE SCALIA: The cross doesn’t honor non-Christians who fought in the war? Is that — is that —

MR. ELIASBERG: I believe that’s actually correct.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Where does it say that?

MR. ELIASBERG: It doesn’t say that, but a cross is the predominant symbol of Christianity and it signifies that Jesus is the son of God and died to redeem mankind for our sins, and I believe that’s why the Jewish war veterans —

JUSTICE SCALIA: It’s erected as a war memorial. I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead. It’s the — the cross is the — is the most common symbol of — of — of the resting place of the dead, and it doesn’t seem to me — what would you have them erect? A cross — some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and you know, a Moslem half moon and star?

MR. ELIASBERG: Well, Justice Scalia, if I may go to your first point. The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of Christians. I have been in Jewish cemeteries. There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew.


MR. ELIASBERG: So it is the most common symbol to honor Christians.

JUSTICE SCALIA: I don’t think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that that cross honors are the Christian war dead. I think that’s an outrageous conclusion.

MR. ELIASBERG: Well, my — the point of my — point here is to say that there is a reason the Jewish war veterans came in and said we don’t feel honored by this cross. This cross can’t honor us because it is a religious symbol of another religion.

So what was the result of all this?

Today, the Supreme Court decided against Mr. Buono (PDF). It was a 5-4 vote with Justice Anthony Kennedy siding with the court’s religious conservatives.

“A Latin cross is not merely a reaffirmation of Christian beliefs,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in a plurality opinion joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. “It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies would be compounded if the fallen are forgotten.”

Church/state separation advocates are not happy about this, with good reason.

Here’s Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State:

“I’m very disappointed,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United [for Separation of Church and State] executive director. “The court majority was clearly determined to find any bogus reason to keep this religious symbol in a public park.”

Added Lynn, “It’s alarming that the high court continues to undermine the separation of church and state. Nothing good can come from this trend.”

“This decision lets Congress bypass the Constitution and devise a convoluted scheme to keep a cross on display in a federal park,” Lynn remarked. “That’s bad law and bad public policy.

“The court majority seems to think the cross is not always a Christian symbol,” Lynn continued. “I think all Americans know better than that.”

The American Humanist Association agreed:

“Predictably, five conservative justices on the Supreme Court today saw no evil in letting a Christian cross represent all Americans, notwithstanding the fact that the cross is the preeminent symbol of but one religion — Christianity,” said Bob Ritter, the legal coordinator of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, legal arm of the AHA. “If this is not ‘an establishment of religion’ I don’t know what is.”

“It’s clear the government was willing to do anything it took in order to keep the cross in the middle of federal land,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “And now we’ll almost certainly see such shady tactics put to use again.”

Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, sees a downside in this ruling for Christians:

“Our public parks are a sanctuary for people of all faiths and belief systems as well as none. These government-owned-and-run public places should not be used to endorse any one religion.

Two sad ironies stand out here. First, for Christians to celebrate this decision requires a will to allow the government to reject the distinct religious value the cross has traditionally held in Christianity. Second, those who have fallen in battle for our country often have done so protecting the rights that are the defining characteristics of our democracy and, specifically, our First Amendment. Central to this are our religious liberties — the ones jeopardized in this ruling by the Supreme Court.”

It’s a bad decision with bad implications when it comes to setting a precedent.

It also underscores the need to at least maintain the current political makeup of the Supreme Court through President Obama‘s next appointment. Things are prickly enough as is. It would be awful for the religious conservatives to gain any more of a foothold in this court.

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  • littlejohn

    In fairness, I grew up in rural West Virginia before your parents were born. I’ve seen many an outhouse with a cresent moon carved in the door. I doubt they were Muslims.

  • Samantha

    Are you KIDDING ME?! I can’t believe this is happening…


  • Luther


    But were those outhouses on public lands, placed there by Muslims, and designed to honor veterans?

  • Yep, *facepalm* pretty much says it all.


  • Phoenix

    this is disappointing for the Supreme Court to rule that the cross is not primarily a christian symbol and I think it is an insult to all those soldiers out there of different faiths and those with no religious beliefs whatsoever to be buried under a christian symbol or to be honored by the symbol of a religion that is not theirs. Could you imagine the uproar if a Christian soldier were to be buried under a Star of David or the Crescent Moon of the Muslim faith?

    We need to remove religious symbols from public areas and government buildings so as to remove this superstition of a “Christian Nation”

  • Kordis

    I can already see this being overturned at the earliest opportunity.
    New Supreme Court, as soon as possible, please.

  • Tony

    Ok, the cross is not a symbol of Christianity. Can we take it then?

    “What’s the cross for?”
    Oh that’s not a cross. It’s a plus sign on a stick. It represents raising math awareness.

  • Canadiannalberta

    so….if the cross is not a sign of Christianity, then Christians would have no problem with me drawing a sex-ed up woman straddling a cross? Or would it suddenly be a Christian symbol and I – being the artist – am suddenly deliberately being offensive to Christians? Or would they respect my artistic picture? Somehow, I see them having an up-roar rather than letting it go.

  • @Candadiannalberta – I saw something like that on professional wrestling a few years ago. Stephenie McMahon was tied to a cross as two steroid-laden guys were acting poorly (while performing impressive physical feats).

    (Isn’t Stephanie McMahon’s mother running for office as a Republican now?)

  • Chris

    Marginalized military atheist here…

    Today a French soldier told me that he really doesn’t get why Americans claim we have “separation of church and state. It is on your money, your President takes his oath on a Bible, the church is everywhere in your government and your politics.”

    And today we give people around the world another reason to laugh at our smug “democratic ideals” by proving that we do not take our own Constitution seriously.

    Head hung in shame…

  • I know they’re not stupid enough to actually think that the cross is a secular symbol, so the only conclusion I can reasonably draw here is that the majority of my country’s highest judicial body are lying assholes.

  • Jen

    Soooo… its vegan kosher to set these non-Christian symbols- of- something- that- is- totally- not- religion on fire?

    And all churches are really celebrating soldiers?

    And Jesus died on an American- totally- not- religious gravestone?

  • JulietEcho

    At least the dissents (main by Stevens) are a refreshing, sane read. Stevens is especially thorough and lists what are essentially dozens of reasons that the plurality is wrong in this case. The dissenters all but say, “It’s really obvious that Scalia & company are just playing games to try to justify the continued favoritism toward Christianity that’s plagued this case from start to finish.”

  • Ben

    Christian here- you raise a good point- I personally think that the cross should be removed. Well, personally, as a Christian I actually find the cross offensive in terms of how it’s used today, anyway. Regardless of any religious leaning on my part, most people would argue that the accounts of him show a decent guy who was killed for no discernible reason. So, the next logical step would surely be to make little versions of this torture device out of precious metals and hang them around our necks to compliment our outfits.

    Something tells me he didn’t want to hang in women’s cleavage for the rest of eternity. Well. Uhm. Maybe the man part of him.


    My position on this is take the cross down, and put something that represents everyone- blood is blood, an American is an American, regardless of which magical being we think poofed us into existence or if we think reality broke itself and the universe popped out one singular planet with life.

  • Richard P.

    So now the cross has been relegated to a symbol of the dead. Does that mean those wearing them are .. say dead in the brain and just waiting for the body to stay down.

    I think the christians should be up in arms at the desegregation of this sacred symbol to a simple grave marker.
    Really this is a step forward. Now the bible thumpers have lost the meaning of the symbol. Now lets delegate jesus to a failed carpenter that could not hold a job.

    Is this the death of their God by chance????
    I know, just wishful thinking.

  • Ben

    Rich, thanks for the tolerance. Doesn’t encourage hate on* either side of the coin, that.

  • So, is the cross now only Christian if it’s shown with Jesus actually nailed to it?

  • bigjohn756

    As far as I am concerned this decision borders on the criminal. EVERYONE knows that the cross is a symbol of the sacrifice of Christ leading to his Resurrection. Are these justices so stupid and uneducated that they don’t know that, or, are they so criminally biased that they will decide in favor of their bias regardless of the facts. This decision makes me want to vomit. This shows that Jesus has lost control of his faithful.

  • Drew

    Ben, I like the cut of your jib. Glad you’re here with us. You and I are having a beer right now (well, I am).

  • Richard Wade

    I really like you, Ben. 🙂

  • Drew

    Most of the time I don’t question the SCOTUS. Naturally certain opinions make me wince a little, from time to time, but our system is built that this is the very final word on an issue. Roe has held up for over 30 years, people are allowed to defend themselves (sorry, I fall on the other side when it comes to the 2nd), and we have in place countless other protections we might not otherwise have had. I’d consider myself a fan.

    But this seems to be such an incredibly awkward, untenable and unprofessional decision. On the one hand, I want to believe in their wisdom. On the other, I wonder what the next step is to get this undone (short of moving to another country, that is).

  • The cross is part of the country’s defense system. It’s protecting us from Vampires.

  • Ben

    Thanks guys for making me feel welcome- I’ve only recently started browsing here, and I like it so far.

    I think that all groups should be treated solely on their merits, and in legal situations, only on their legal merits. And, as I’ve told my Christian friends, in this situation, even our own book says “You guys are being retarded. Take it down, move it somewhere else.” Well, not literally. But it does say to obey man’s law insofar as you aren’t actually being repressed, which, we aren’t. This isn’t about people hating Christianity (though there are people who do, and I won’t argue that it’s without some cause) but it’s about the fact that this is the ONLY World War I memorial out there that is recognized by the federal government, and its basically a big finger to anyone of any other or no religious faith.

    If they one day build a memorial to the Iraq war and its in the shape of an L. Ron Hubbard spaceship, I would rage. And rightfully so. Not because Scientology is necessarily wrong, but because I would be being discriminated against. It should be something tasteful that says brave men once died to protect what they thought was right. That men of differing faiths, races, beliefs, and incomes boarded ships and planes to defend each others’ right to be different. At least, that is their intention.

    Or something less cheesy.

  • Richard Wade

    The Supreme Court began to lose my respect a few years ago when they upheld that awful decision about how cities could use imminent domain to force people from their homes at cut rate prices for private business projects rather than for infrastructure projects like a freeway or a civic center. So now any company that greases the city council’s palms can destroy whole neighborhoods for whatever project they want.

    Since then the Court has taken one fascist bite after another out of our civil liberties. The private corporate campaign contributions decision was bad enough. This one really pisses me off.

  • shawn

    Ben, you seem to me to be the type of Christian even Jesus would be rightfully proud of. Glad to see that some people can respectfully practice religion while still being a good, intelligent, human being. Thank you and welcome to the comments.

  • Delphine

    I’m not disappointed. Now that we have Scalia confirming crosses are not symbols of Christianity, it opens up all kinds of opportunities for things we couldn’t do because Christians would be offended.

    Next time you put a penis on a cross and a Christian gets mad, just tell them, crosses are not symbols of Christianity and they really need to go find their own symbol and stop being pissed off at your penis on a cross.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    This is stupid, but not particularly shocking. The Supreme Court has already ruled that nativity scenes aren’t Christian (Lynch v. Donnelly). And in Edwards v. Aguillard, Scalia wrote a particularly nonsensical dissent arguing that teaching young earth creationism had nothing to do with Christianity.

  • Ben

    No, now, apparently, you’re not defacing a religious symbol, but a federal symbol. I hear they ARE making a few alterations to it, to make it more “hip” They’re going to make it black on a red back drop to make it appeal to the kids, and throwing the eagle on top for some patriotic flair. Also, Scalia says there isn’t enough going on the main body of this drapery, so they’re going to make the leg, arms, and head of the cross be bent. Personally, I think this is the step to a better, cleaner future for the Uber. . . I mean, the American people.

  • Richard P.

    Ben I have no tolerance for stupidity. Religion is stupidity in action, I may give respect to the person, but I give no respect to the ideology and claim no tolerance for it. And I don’t fake it either.

  • Ben

    . . . okay. At least you’re honest?

  • Richard P.

    I would also say I do like your mind set. It is to bad that more people that put themselves into the group titled christian wouldn’t take the time to use the same level of thoughtfulness that you have. It is unique to find.

    Unfortunately, it is a fact that your a rare breed. Which makes me wonder how long til you shed the excess baggage.

  • Ben

    There are some like me, but they are usually a bit timid when it comes to this kind of stuff- when your own are against you, who’ll be for you?

    But my mindset is, the only people the guy our church is named after ever lost his temple with were the cranky old men in the temple, passing down judgments on people not as holy as they were. Sadly, 2000 years and a religious break or three later, and the majority of them can’t see that fact. “God hates ____ (insert pretty much anything here, I’m sure everything has at one point been in that blank)” signs make my skin crawl.

    My point is, well. . . you have a point that I can’t in good conscience refute, as it would be a lie. The only things I can say in defense of my beliefs is the fact that, if I’m doing it the way the instruction manual and logic tell me to, I shouldn’t offend anyone not looking to be offended. And, for me, it works pretty well.

  • Richard P.

    Funny thing is I understand that. In fact it was pretty much what I thought. The problem with that line of thinking is the logic part. Eventually you will be called on it. Logic does say to treat people fairly with respect and graciousness. However the instruction manual, does not back itself up with logic.

    I think one of the next steps on your journey will be the realization that you have become one of those..
    One of those that when talked about it comes with the statement; “He’s not a real christian”. A number of years ago I came to that point.
    Then realized that I wasn’t. I wasn’t one of those that could see hate and call it love, or bigotry and call it righteousness or any of the other hypocrisy and ignore it. Then I realized I didn’t need it at all to be the person I really wanted to be. In fact it held me back.

    Well, no matter what side of the fence you land on when the shit hits the fan. I hope it is easier for you than it was for me.

  • Richard Wade


    Some parts of the Mojave Desert are very beautiful, and I have enjoyed exploring it for several decades. Other parts make the word “desolation” sound way too pretty. This cross is in one of the latter parts, on a boring road in a dreary, dusty valley with far less water than you’ll find in a two-year-stale Eucharist wafer. If the moon had a few diseased Joshua trees, it would be more picturesque than that stretch of loneliness.

    If a cross is now only a symbol for where we bury corpses so the flies will go away, there’s no cemetery around that I can find or miles and miles of sun, lava rock and asphalt. Any human remains around there must be from idiot prospectors who collapsed while heading south because Death Valley was too hectic and crowded.

    If Justices Kennedy, Roberts and Alito think that

    “It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies would be compounded if the fallen are forgotten.”

    Well, there are few places on Earth better suited for completely losing and forgetting something. None of those Justices are ever, ever going to see it in person, to honor the fallen of the “War to End All Wars,” or any of the several wars since. I really can’t understand what the Veterans of Foreign Wars were thinking back in the 1930’s, by hiding it out there. I have seen some very elegant and evocative war memorials, even for WW I. That pair of rusting pipes is a war forgetial.

  • Nakor

    *sigh* Next I’ll hear that the Star of David isn’t a Jewish symbol. Wait, no I won’t, because the government wouldn’t benefit from that decision. :\

    But seriously, this isn’t just an atheist argument is it? Shouldn’t every religion other than Christianity be angry at this decision? Doesn’t it discriminate against Jews and Muslims and Hindu and Wicca just as much as it does against atheists?

    I wish sometimes I had a voice to add to those of our neighbours south of the 49th. Keep on plugging away at this down there. Eventually something’s gotta give.

  • @Ben: A religious break or three? I think that’s a little optimistic isn’t it? ;D

  • WOW. The cross represents Christianity to all non Christians – AND Christians alike. That cross says “Christians only” as blatantly as a sign with the words “Whites only” would signify only White people are represented/allowed/honored – in the park and in this country. Would the Supreme Court allow a sign/symbol like that too?!

  • Greg

    April the first was a month ago, Hemant.

    What’s that? Wow.


    You guys over there in the US should organise a national day where you produce ‘offensive’ crosses. (e.g. the scantily clad woman on the cross in throws of sexual bliss). Maybe a cross marking the gravestone of Satan, with words of respect on his tombstone? 🙂

    I think the amount of Christians that go up in arms about it would make the point nicely.

  • Sally

    Hey Ben, welcome to the comments 🙂

    Personally, as an Evil Britisher, I think that the atheists across the pond should declare the cross THEIR symbol and start using it at every opportunity. Like that other guy said up the top, it looks like a mathematical symbol, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that if it’s been decided it’s not a *christian* symbol then it should be fair game for say, the humanists to adopt it. Although admittedly, I don’t know why the humanists would want to adopt an instrument of death and torture as their symbol. Perhaps make it the symbol of pro-choice/pro-abortion. That will really get them going.

    And if the Fox network lunatics jump on it, well you have the supreme court on your side. It’s not their symbol. If anyone tries to go to the SC to challenge it, then that also means a legal challenge to having this cross out there in the desert, right? The SC would be caught between a rock and a hard place.

  • Woodsavalon

    If the cross is not recognized by the court as a symbol of Christianity, then breaking, burning, defacing or simply damaging them is no longer a crime against a religion. If that is true, does that mean that smashing crosses on church land is now a misdemeanor?

  • I think the supreme court (5 of them anyway) made a mistake on this one. But now that the decision has come down, it will be interesting to see the unintended consequences. A cross is now just a tilted X for “X marks the spot”. I agree that humanists should try somehow to co-op the symbol for other purposes to make the religious justices rue the day that they made that decision. For example, it would make a nice target in urinals to help guys aim.

  • muggle

    Welcome, Ben, it’s theists like you that have me adamantly stating these days I’m Atheist not anti-theist and they aren’t as rare as some people think. It’s just the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. In fact, many are speaking up against the haters in the name of God.

    Well, it’s that I know many good people who happen to believe plus my passion for religious freedom plus the fact that I don’t think belief or disbelief is a choice.

    “Shouldn’t every religion other than Christianity be angry at this decision?” Heck, even the Christians should be. In addition to Ben’s great comments above, this is their religious symbol being declared nonreligious.

    This is a decision that should outrage just about, well, everyone.

  • Colin

    A single cross does not, by itself, mean America has an established religion, but if the Supreme Court stops caring that the government is promoting a particular religion, we will be down the path toward having one.

    Isn’t this the same kind of Slippery Slope argument that Mike Huckabee was implicitly criticized for in Mike Huckabee “Charges the Mound” Against Michael Tracey?

    I’m not arguing for or against the cross; I’m just pointing out a possible inconsistency.

  • Since it isn’t religious, can I start posting them upside down on the side of the road?

  • Greg

    Just an amusing thing I thought of:

    Here in the UK, a Christian woman recently took legal action against the NHS, because they considered her long dangle-y cross a health and safety hazard in her position as a nurse. They wanted her to either get rid of it, or pin it to her clothes, rather than let it hang down freely.

    Her case rested on the idea that it was religious discrimination because the cross was the Christian symbol.

  • stogoe

    the only conclusion I can reasonably draw here is that the majority of my country’s highest judicial body are lying assholes.

    Well, duh.

    How does one go about impeaching Supreme Court Justices for gross incompetence and massive corruption?

  • plutosdad

    Technically that’s not what he said, he said the cross was *meant* to honor everyone, not just the christians. I don’t see anywhere where he claims a cross doesn’t symbolize christianity.

    Eliasberg’s point that tombstones are the symbol of the particular religion is valid, but I wonder if it applies to memorials. Kennedy of course completely misses the point and his argument actually supports Eliasberg’s, that the crosses at memorial cemetaries are only on the Christian tombstones.

    Most memorials are not crosses but usually statues of people and names of the dead, probably for this very reason: to make sure to honor everyone.

    However I think this is not the same as the 10 commandments on a wall, or nativity, or other symbols whose purpose is to promote or display a religion; this is a memorial. And just as we should be careful when setting one up, we should also be careful about changing them once they have existed for a generation.

  • stogoe

    Roe has held up for over 30 years

    Bah! Hahahahahahahaa!!!! You really think so? Really?! There are Zero clinics in the Dakotas where a woman can obtain an abortion. They have to travel out of state, and with mandatory waiting periods everywhere else, travel costs and time off from work make it unavailable to everyone but the rich. Oklahoma doctors are required to lie to you if your fetus is showing developmental problems (so you don’t abort your baby who will be born without a head and then die 12 hours later), and you have to get a probe stuck up your hoo-ha so the doctor can show you the face of the innocent widdle baby you’ll be mercilessly destroying you heartless whore. The Hyde amendment disallows public funds from paying for abortions, so poor people (who need the most help with their family planning) are barred from controlling their bodies. In addition, AZ or OK (and probably both) have introduced bills which will prohibit private insurance from covering abortion and birth control, and parental notification laws mean that minors who get pregnant are deterred from making their own choices.

    Roe is gone, bite by bite, inch by inch, and there were too many people intimidated by the ‘ick’ factor or didn’t want the Wrong People getting abortions to stop the rollback.

  • stogoe

    And just as we should be careful when setting one up, we should also be careful about changing them once they have existed for a generation.

    Holy shit, are you completely fucking wrong. Just because something vile and repulsive has been around for a few years doesn’t make it a-o-fucking-kay. It’s still vile and repulsive, it’s just been vile and repulsive for 80 years. If we don’t fix or replace things that have been wrong forever, how can we ever move forward?

  • Canadiannalberta

    Welcome Ben!

    @ NoYourGod, huh. I knew someone had done that somewhere, but I would have thought something that public would get an up-cry. Did it?

  • BarstowSteve

    Let me clear up a point in your piece, at the time the cross was erected it was on land owned by the American Legion post in the area the Preserve did not come into being until the 90s.

    As a desert rat and an atheist I have no problem with cross.

  • *facepalm*



  • Ben

    Stephanie, correct me if I’m wrong, but most war memorials I see that are statues usually have a person with predominantly European features holding the flag and looking brave.

    Just saying. ^_^

    And Richard P, yeah, it’s been difficult already, but I finally found a level headed pastor and a church group close to my age that aren’t completely insane, so I don’t see too much in my way at this moment.

    Heh, when I posted something about this on my status and said that I disagreed with the ruling, it was amazing how many negative (and positive) responses I got. I then asked if they realized that the cross is no longer a protected religious symbol, and what that could possibly mean for us.

    This would be a good time for Christians to rally together and at least show the world that we aren’t all hateful cusses with Messiah complexes. (see what I did there?)

  • I’m entirely on board with co-opting the cross as a secular symbol in protest. It reminds me of a friend of mine who was raised religious. She used to really like crossing herself, and has recently started doing it again for the comfort of the gesture. But now, instead of “The father, the son and the holy ghost,” she says, “Reason, logic, and the scientific method.”

    It’s important to do our best to prevent the government from instituting religious symbols, but when they rule that something doesn’t count (like Christmas), actively promoting it as secular seems to me to be the best course of action. Then maybe eventually the religious will start to recognize that special legal privileges come at a high cost.

  • Unspeakably Violent Jane

    So those buildings you sometimes see, with the big T on top. That’s a place to leave the dead then. Should we prop them up on the benches? Or stack them like cord wood?

  • JB Tait

    I wonder what this decision will mean to the laws that define burning a cross as a hate crime.

    Then again, I never understood why being destructive to a symbol of the religious majority would say something bad about or to a racial group that typically also worships the same God and symbol.

  • Cool… Let’s now put a swastika into every public building, as it is a common symbol of the indoeuropean people, not a symbol of a bloody dictatorship…

    Oh, and here in Italy things go much worse, if it eases your pain…

  • JJR

    I’m remembering Steven Colbert’s comment on Scalia’s reasoning: “…it could mean a big ‘t’, which says ‘thank you, Jews…for your service to our country!'”

  • Kate

    When I was a little kid my friends and I had to bury a dead bird, and we put a cross made of sticks over it, even though most of us were not Christian. We didn’t think of it as a Christian symbol, but a “dead thing under here” symbol. Of course, we were, like, six years old.

  • I grew up Mormon and my mom was always puzzled that the use of a symbol of death was embraced by people that believed in a resurrected religious figure.

    So given that, I can see why Christians would use the cross to remember the dead, since it’s a symbol of death.

    That being said, I would prefer to see a monument or a stone or something that symbolizes remembrance of the fallen.

    Scalia’s and Kennedy’s remarks are just work arounds to appease the conservative religious base. This decision is not good for anyone.

  • Snap

    “JUSTICE SCALIA: It’s erected as a war memorial. I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead. It’s the — the cross is the — is the most common symbol of — of — of the resting place of the dead, and it doesn’t seem to me — what would you have them erect?”

    That’s a tough one. Uhm…well…here’s one example:

    Here’s another:


    And here:

    Etc, etc…

  • Dear Justice Scalia,
    What are all of the other places where the cross is not a Christian symbol? One of the oldes buildings in my town is a chruch. It has a cross on top. Many public gatherings happened there in the past. It has become part of the identity of our town. It think the pastor would be suprised to learn that the cross on top of his church is not a christian symbol.

  • EllenBeth Wachs

    The opinion actually has more to do with Buono’s lack of standing to challenge the display of the cross one it was transferred to the private organization (VFW). He had standing to challenge Congress’s land transfer statute that gave the cross and the land that is rests upon to the VFW but lost that argument based upon some twisted logic.

    “Supreme Court Rules that a Cross is Not a Symbol of Christianity” It is quite a bit more complex than that. They had to maneuver their reasoning to justify to the Land transfer act.

  • I just read the SCOTUS ruling … NOWHERE in any of it does it say — as you assert in your blog article headline above — that the “cross is not a symbol of Christianity.”

    In fact, both Alito and Scalia both affirm that the cross *IS* a religious symbol with the latter indirectly implying that it is a Christian symbol.

    JEESH!!!! … read the ruling before posting such fiction!!!!!

    Here it is so that you can read it for yourself:


  • ihedenius

    I wonder what this decision will mean to the laws that define burning a cross as a hate crime.

    Then again, I never understood why being destructive to a symbol of the religious majority would say something bad about or to a racial group that typically also worships the same God and symbol.

    A Scottish guy on a gamer board said the flaming cross is an old Scottish religious symbol. It emigrated with Scots to America. Question raised due to the cross covered with electric lights that made the rounds christmas about a year ago.

  • Chris

    If all religious people were like Ben, this website would be redundant.
    That is all.

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