Earlier today, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center went before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to argue that a monument honoring veterans with a giant Christian symbol shouldn’t be allowed on federal property. It’s the latest step in a multi-year battle over the 40-foot-tall World War I “Peace Cross” memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland.
The crux of the AHA’s case is that, while war memorials are perfectly fine, this particular one breaks the law by promoting Christianity. It was always a Christian monument from the moment it was dedicated, and it remains one today, even though officials have put up (much smaller) secular displays around it.
“Instead of promoting Christianity, government war memorials should recognize and honor all veterans, including those of minority faiths and of no faith,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.
Any reasonable person looking at this memorial, the AHA adds, would see it as an endorsement of Christianity.
However, the conservative group Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (which opposes the AHA in this case) just sent out a press release completely warping the AHA’s argument, saying that this memorial is just the latest item on the Humanist group’s “hit list.” (How’s that for violent rhetoric?)
How much are they bending the truth? They seriously say this Cross is not a Christian symbol and argue that the AHA is unpatriotic.
“Talk about ingratitude,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief defending the memorial. “The American Humanist Association wants to scrub the names of these men and the blood that they spilled in defense of our freedoms out of the historical record. What’s next? Airbrushing the word “God” out of the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address? The American Humanist Association’s position is anti-historical, anti-veteran, and anti-humanist.”
The AHA has no problem whatsoever with a memorial that honors all veterans from the area. They welcome an inclusive memorial. But that means paying respect to soldiers who weren’t Christians, too, and this Cross suggests that only Christians sacrificed their lives for this country.
They’re not rewriting history, either. The argument that atheists would airbrush “God” out of historical documents is just red meat for Christians who are too gullible to understand that no one’s calling for that. The AHA isn’t anti-history, anti-veteran, or “anti-humanist,” whatever that means.
The fact is the AHA cares about all veterans, yet the Becket Fund is spinning that to say they hate veterans. (And if you believe that, then you probably also think Donald Trump will make America great again.)
This is how right-wing groups spin things: If you want to see a memorial that pays respects to everyone, you’re somehow anti-Christian. It’s the same “logic” we see when taking down a Ten Commandments monument outside a government building is considered “anti-Christian” instead of pro-neutrality.
The only way the Becket Fund wins this case is if the Appeals Court says the Cross isn’t a Christian symbol. And if that happens, you can expect to see even more memorials go up with crosses as their centerpiece. Christians will just claim it’s an “internationally recognized symbol of sacrifice and loss” — as the Becket Fund does — and say that any connection to Christianity is purely coincidental.
That’s how much they have to bend the truth because they refuse to acknowledge that atheists, Muslims, Jews, and other non-Christians made the same sacrifices as Christian soldiers and deserve to be recognized in a way that honors all of them.