Atheists Demand Grieving Mom Take Down Cross Remembering Her Son

Last week a “humanist” group filed a lawsuit in Prince George’s County, Md., demanding the removal from public land of a 40-foot cross memorializing the 49 local soldiers who gave their lives in the First World War. Across the country in Lake Elsinore, Calif., a judge ruled against a proposed monument that would have depicted a soldier kneeling before a small cross marking the grave of a fallen comrade (something soldiers actually do, by the way).

In the same town, a mother recently removed a roadside cross honoring her son — killed in an accident — after secularists raised objections even to a small roadside memorial. Heartbreaking video of the mother removing the cross is below:

Of course these are not the only cross cases. In fact, just last week the Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on the American Atheists’ attempt to remove the famed Ground Zero Cross from a museum exhibit, claiming that its inclusion in the September 11 Museum and Memorial violated the Constitution. What’s next? Lawsuits against religious-themed paintings in public art galleries?

All of my adult life I’ve heard Christians mocked as too sensitive, how we just need to turn the channel or look away when confronted with even the most vile blasphemies. While I disagree that Christians are any more sensitive than other communities (in fact, I think we have thicker skins than most), it is correct that the response to bad speech isn’t censorship but to either ignore the bad speech or answer with a better argument. I have zero desire to censor speech I don’t like, even public speech I don’t like. Unless a government official or action is directly violating my rights (and I don’t have a right not be offended), my response to his or her bad actions is to use my own voice to protest and my own voice to advocate that fellow citizens vote them out of office. That’s constitutional democracy in action.

Unless, of course, you’re an offended atheist. Then, the same pop culture that mocks Christian sensibilities will treat seriously your utterly vile outrage at a mourning mother’s expression of love for her fallen son. Then, that means the same federal courts that have consistently held that outrage alone does not constitute a recognizable injury will grant “offended observers” special status to challenge displays of perceived religious symbols on public land. In other words, an atheist’s subjective discomfort is sufficient grounds for a federal lawsuit.

This is a travesty. And it’s a symbol of the reality that our culture is steadily abandoning the idea of the law as a neutral arbiter and instead fully embracing the idea that the law exists for the purpose of making sure that just the right sort of people win their cases.

And in 2014, the right sort of person is an angry atheist. Let the Christian mothers weep. Their tears are meaningless.

Read more on the Patheos Faith and Family Channel and follow David on Twitter.

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  • Brian Westley

    This is a travesty. And it’s a symbol of the reality that our culture is steadily abandoning the idea of the law as a neutral arbiter and instead fully embracing the idea that the law exists for the purpose of making sure that just the right sort of people win their cases.

    The law, in the case of the roadside cross, is that the local ordinance doesn’t allow people to leave up displays alongside public roads. And in the case of the memorial in front of a mall, the judge determined that the city councilmembers were promoting their religion because of their remarks when the design was being debated.

  • AshleyWDC

    What’s happening is that we as a culture are becoming more thorough in enforcing government neutrality. Inevitably, this causes outrage from certain types of Christians who are accustomed to being able to ignore the law. Being unable to force your religious symbols upon us, you resort to misrepresenting or, as in this post, simply ignoring the facts.

  • Zeke

    In other words, an atheist’s subjective discomfort is sufficient grounds for a federal lawsuit.

    Except this isn’t why the cross was ordered to be removed. It was on public property, and therefore against the law, plain and simple. I’m too lazy to look, but were you rallying behind Muslims when they announced plans to build an Islamic center near ground zero on private property, and faithful Christians were offended?
    If the American Atheists were asking her to remove these same symbols from her son’s grave, you’d a point, but of course this isn’t the case.

  • David French

    Crosses on public land are not against the law “plain and simple.”

  • Zeke

    It is in Lake Elsinore, California, where this happened. Nowhere did they argue the cross should be removed because somebody experienced “discomfort”. Put your victim card back in the deck please.
    http://www.lake-elsinore.org/index.aspx?page=122

  • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

    As an atheist, I look at the roadside-cross matter, as well as the WTC Cross matter, in two ways.

    I acknowledge the separation of church and state issues involved in these religious symbols being displayed on public property, and wish Christians could understand that big crosses are symbols not only of religious meaning but also cultural privilege. There’s no shortage of private property in which believers could freely mount their crosses and other Christian symbols; in a secular society, that’s exactly where religious monuments belong.

    But I also acknowledge that there are strong emotional issues here, from a family’s grief to the national tragedy of 9/11. It’s understandable that people can’t look at such charged events completely dispassionately, and nonbelievers should realize we have to approach these matters with tact and empathy. We run the risk of making it seem like we’re unsympathetic to a family’s loss, or that we think the worst thing that happened on 9/11 was that this cross display was erected at Ground Zero.

    I think these cases have been PR disasters for the cause of secularism and nonbelief in America. We should realize the media has no qualms about characterizing atheists as unsympathetic for our opposition to these crosses. And if we keep pursuing these controversial cases, maybe we actually are unsympathtic.

  • http://www.NancyFrench.com/ Nancy French

    Thanks for your thoughts, Shem… All good points.

  • Lark62

    Exactly.

    There was one case in the midwest about a cross in front of a government building. One commenter to the article said, “We’ll show those atheists! We’ll put hundred of crosses up in front of churches, and they will be so sad.” Wrong. I want to see crosses on private land. Crosses in front of churches are great. I would donate to a fund for this lady to build a memorial to her son on private land, or buy a bench in a park, whatever. I would stand up against any attempt to remove a cross from church land.

    But to defend our Constitution, we have to enforce the difference between “government” that must be neutral, and “non-government.” This is new.* Christians have been in charge for so long, that they don’t see the impact of using the government to promote their religion and at times, even enforce their religious beliefs.

    Southern Baptists have very strong strictures against praying to any other god. In that context, read the cases where school kids say “Me too. I want to go to school without praying to someone else’s god.” They and their families get death threats. One family lost family pets to poison. Florists in Rhode Island refused to deliver flowers to teen-aged girl.

    Yes, this may be “just” a road side cross, but it has been up for two years. It had a concrete base. There is something wrong about placing distracting displays (it’s there because they want people to see it, right?) at the point of fatal accidents. And the city code acknowledges this fact. The government needs to enforce the law equally.

    *Edit: Enforcement is new. The requirement for government neutrality is established in the Constitution.

  • Lark62

    The twin towers were over 100 stories each. The towers were constructed on a structure of steel beams arranged a right angles. Finding i-beams in the rubble welded at right angles isn’t a miracle. What else would you expect to find?

    Many people found comfort in one case of two i-beams welded together at a right angle. These beams were later cut to more closely resemble a Christian cross. This item should be preserved, because it did bring comfort to some.

    To others, worshiping rubble from this disaster does not bring comfort. To others, this is simply another display of illogical religious thought. Many would consider that an extreme version of unquestioned and unchallenged religious indoctrination was the root cause of the disaster. Many others see glorification of a religious symbol at the location of religious extremism to be deeply offensive. Many others see this as negating the lives of the many non-christians who also died at the hands of religious extremism.

    This item should be given to a church to display.

    The government should not pick sides. The memorial created by the government should be welcoming to all, and reflective of all the lives lost. Christians do not own 9/11, nor were Christians the only ones who died. There are many, many places on private land where this cross can be displayed. It does not belong at the memorial dedicated to all.

  • Lark62

    Specifically, from that link:

    Signs on the Public Right-of-ways

    Signs on the Public Right-of-ways are totally prohibited by City ordinance. These types of signs create an unsightly appearance and can create a visibility problem for vehicle traffic and an obstruction for pedestrians. Signs such as yard sale, business advertising and directional signs found on the public right-of-way are subject to removal by City staff without warning. Continued violations may result in a fine for each sign. If your signs were removed from public property, you may call the Code Enforcement for information.

    “Totally prohibited”, and “repeated violations are subject to fines.” That’s the law, and it applies equally to all.

    The law exists to avoid visibility problems for vehicle traffic, and obstructions for pedestrians. There is no logical basis for endangering other lives.

  • ahermit
  • JackSayers

    Brian, the law is far from being neutral. I’m certain you would not feel that way if the courts violated YOUR rights!


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