For more than a year now, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has been sending letters to officials in Taos, New Mexico over a Christian Veterans Memorial in a local public plaza.
That’s obviously a problem because it promotes religion and sends the false message that only Christians died in World War II.
“The religious significance of the Christian cross is unambiguous and indisputable,” FFRF Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler wrote last year to Taos Town Manager Rick Bellis. “Federal courts have consistently held displays of Latin crosses on public property to be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. The display of this patently religious symbol on public property confers government endorsement of Christianity, a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause.”
The fact that the cross is a memorial doesn’t “nullify [its] religious sectarian content because it is not a generic symbol of death; it is a Christian symbol of death that signifies or memorializes the death of a Christian,” to quote a decision of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over New Mexico.
It finally hit the fan at a recent town council meeting when ignorant, uninformed citizens began speaking in defense of the illegal memorial:
“When I heard about this issue, I didn’t know if I was more ashamed or pissed off. If we let outsiders dictate to us what this community should be or should not be, Taos begins to lose what Taos is,” said David Rael. “People without a knowledge of their history are like a tree without roots,” said Arsenio Cordova.
“You are not only desecrating the memorial if you let this happen, you are desecrating the people who served in the military,” Cordova said to the town council. “I hope you’ll fight it to the hilt.”
They can fight it, but they’ll lose. There’s no shortage of similar cases that have been decided in favor of church/state separation. The town can easily honor veterans without injecting religion into it. What they can’t do is erect a symbol of Christianity and pretend that honors all veterans.
The town’s lawyer says he’ll (finally) respond to FFRF, but it’s all a formality at this point. The only acceptable thing to do is make arrangements to move the memorial to private property. If the town refuses, they could be hit with a lawsuit that will cost the taxpayers.
I have no idea why the town wants to honor veterans by rejecting the Constitution, but that’s the direction they’re going in right now.