Back in June, a U.S. District Court judge said that a giant Christian cross in Pensacola, Florida’s Bayview Park was unconstitutional and had to come down within 30 days.
Despite the city of Pensacola — i.e. the taxpayers — already ponying up more than $130,000 to fight this battle, city officials decided to appeal the decision.
They’re now getting help from 14 attorneys general from across the country, all of whom say a Giant Christian Cross should be considered a totally secular monument.
The amicus brief is signed by the attorneys general from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah. And what they say will leave you scratching your head.
Specifically, they argue that the Giant Christian Cross shouldn’t automatically be considered a religious symbol, that there’s no religious coercion involved, and that the Mayor’s comments (that there will “always [be] a place for religion in the public square”) shouldn’t be interpreted as evidence that the GIANT CHRISTIAN CROSS is religious.
… the Court should make clear that a Latin cross on public property may serve a secular purpose, especially over time, and that the absence of any direct or indirect coercion is always a key consideration under the Establishment Clause.
How on earth could they justify that? In essence, they say we use the cross to honor heroes and create makeshift memorials when people die, therefore it’s not always about promoting Christianity. Furthermore, when the Giant Christian Cross has been up for 75 years without a challenge, we should be able to assume it reflects “cultural heritage” rather than religion.
That argument, to me, is exactly why atheists should speak up every single time there’s a city-sponsored cross on the side of the road or a Christian war memorial that’s been up for decades. When you let these problems slide, Christians inevitably use them as justification to go even further.
We can make an educated guess about why no one complained before. When you consider the pushback against atheists who attempt to take down a beloved religious monument, there’s a lot of pressure to shut up and not rock the boat. That shouldn’t be taken as a sign that no one had a problem with it. And when crosses are used to physically mark the locations of tragedies, there are plenty of atheists who think fighting back against those symbols is extremely petty. Someone died. Let the family have this. Now we’re seeing what happens when no one points out the problem.
Perhaps the only positive statement in the brief is about what would happen if the earlier ruling stands and the Giant Christian Cross is removed:
Ultimately, if it were accepted by this Court, the district court’s reasoning would threaten countless monuments across the Circuit. As detailed in the City’s appendix, state and local parks, squares, and government buildings boast veterans’ memorials that contain religious imagery, including crosses, citations to scripture, and the like.
If you let the decision stand, they say, then all the Christian monuments across the country will be in jeopardy. Damn right they will be! They never should have gone up at all, and it’s about time these cities stop promoting Christianity when they ought to be promoting inclusivity.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)