If a State’s Holocaust Memorial Includes a Jewish Star, Does It Violate Church/State Separation?

Daniel Libeskind is the son of Holocaust survivors and he was thrilled to be selected as a finalist to construct a Holocaust memorial that would be displayed on the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse. His eventual submission featured the story of an Auschwitz survivor told on two giant tablets… with a Star of David in the negative space between them:

Proposed Holocaust Memorial (via Daniel Libeskind)

The monument would mostly be paid for with private donations (worth approximately $2,000,000) but the state would kick in about $300,000 for the preparation of the site.

This whole thing raised a very interesting question: Why did Ohio need a Holocaust memorial?

Indeed, Republican State Senator Richard Finan opposed it because he said it just wasn’t necessary. In fact, he basically argued that the memorial was approved because no one wanted to be labeled as anti-Semitic or against the Holocaust. But his concerns were primarily economic (why is the state paying for this at all?) and traditional (no other state had a Holocaust memorial like this and Ohio’s grounds honored war heroes):

“A Holocaust memorial does not fit with the historical markers of the State house… Our statues are all about Ohio’s civil war generals… I do not think a statue or monument to the Holocaust belongs in the Statehouse. There are other more viable places it could be put.

That last sentence is very relevant — this memorial could easily go up in so many other privately-owned places in the city. So why must it go up on government grounds?

Meanwhile, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has a very different concern: Is this memorial Constitutional?

The corollary to that, of course, is: How do you oppose a memorial like this without coming off as disrespectful?

Last month, they wrote a letter to Finan, who was also chair of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, urging him to put a stop to the memorial (PDF). They did their best to walk a line of respect:

Even if the symbol is viewed in the context of a memorial honoring victims of an atrocious genocide, it ignores the fact that there were other victims of the Holocaust. Thus, it gives the impression that only the Jewish victims of the Holocaust are being honored by the stateThere were five million non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma Gypsies, resisters to the Nazi regime, Catholic priests and Christian pastors, homosexuals, the disabled, and Africans who were brought to Germany following World War I. If the memorial included only a pink triangle, it would appear to honor homosexual victims of the Holocaust above all others. Similarly, including the Star of David so prominently in the planned Memorial is exclusionary, ignoring the sacrifices made by the many other groups targeted by the Nazis during World War II. A reasonable observer could conclude that the government only cares about the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, not Christian, nonreligious, or other non-Jewish victims.

FFRF would like to emphasize that we have no objection to the State hosting a memorial to honor victims of the Holocaust and Ohioan veterans who helped liberate Nazi concentration camps. FFRF’s own membership includes veterans of World War II and Holocaust survivors. Our contention is that memorials designated by state governments, particularly anything displayed at the seat of state government, should remain free from sectarian religious imagery.

(***Edit***: Yad Vashem, the “world center for Holocaust research,” doesn’t have precise numbers but their estimate of non-Jewish victims is significantly smaller than the 5,000,000 cited by FFRF.)

Indeed, the two runners-up, Jaume Plensa and Ann Hamilton, created memorials that didn’t include a Jewish symbol but honored victims nonetheless:

Jaume Plensa’s submitted design (Neal C. Lauron – Columbus Dispatch)

Ann Hamilton’s submitted design (Neal C. Lauron – Columbus Dispatch)

Today, over FFRF’s objections and Finan’s opposition, the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Committee approved Libeskind’s design (the one with the Star of David). Finan was the sole dissenter in an 8-1 vote, and he announced his resignation from the board.

This is one of those battles that atheists have be very careful about fighting. It’s like American Atheists going after the cross in the 9/11 Memorial — their fight wasn’t anti-Christian or anti-remembering-9/11. It was purely against the idea of a government memorial treating a Christian symbol as more important than symbols of non-Christians. (We can discuss the merits of that case, but that was their argument.)

I agree with FFRF here in principle but the execution has to be done very carefully. Even when the memorial honors something well worth remembering, legislators must respect the law in the process. That’s all FFRF is asking for. The precedent such a memorial would set would be equally disturbing, possibly leading to more religious memorials in other states — does anyone think Bible Belt legislators wouldn’t try to erect Christian memorials in their own states after seeing how this played out?

Now that the memorial is going to go up, a lawsuit could be forthcoming. FFRF wouldn’t be wrong to file one, even if the press pilloried them for it.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Blacksheep

    How do you oppose a memorial like this without coming off as disrespectful?

    Probably the best way is captured in part of FFRF’s letter, above: don’t talk about state sponsored religion, (which this barely is, since the Holocaust was largely a Jewish experience -priests and pastors and others were often killed for helping Jews) but rather point out that the monument should honor all victims.

  • chanceofrainne

    Very very damn carefully. That’s a PR minefield I wouldn’t want to have to tiptoe across.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    There should be no memorial because the Holocaust never happened.

    /end sarcasm

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

    “FFRF’s own membership includes veterans of World War II and Holocaust survivors.”
    Well, then they should ask one of these members to speak in favor of their motion.

  • http://thinkweirdthoughts.blogspot.com Phira

    As a Jew with family that died in the Holocaust, I do feel that using a star of David in a memorial is an appropriate symbol. However, just because I feel that way doesn’t mean everyone else does, and since I hate seeing crosses everywhere, I’m not going to argue that a star of David is okay just because, in the US, Jews are still a marginalized group. A star of David is not necessary to honor the memory of those who died in the Holocaust.

    In terms of other states having similar memorials, I know that the city of Boston has a memorial near city hall. I avoid it most of the time, since 1) I’m too broke to go DO anything downtown most of the time, and 2) it’s very emotionally painful to go there. So I don’t know if it has any stars of David, but if it does, they’re not especially prominent.

    • Kodie

      It doesn’t have any Stars of David. It does use the number 6 to signify a few things, at least one of which is the number in millions of Jews killed, and also contains some things written in Hebrew (and English). It seems inclusive, but it seems heavily pertinent to Jews only also.

      http://www.nehm.org/the-memorial/design-of-the-memorial/
      http://www.nehm.org/the-memorial/history/

      This memorial is dedicated to those six million Jewish men, women, and children. Here we create a marker—a place to grieve for the victims and for the destruction of their culture—a place to give them an everlasting name.

      We seek to encourage a universal understanding of all that happened
      in that period. Nearly 11 million people, of many races, religions, and
      nationalities were murdered by the Nazis. Among the victims were
      Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, political dissidents, homosexuals, and the mentally and physically disabled.

      I don’t mean to erase the man’s history who initiated the project (Stephan Ross), you can read it at the site, he is a Jewish holocaust survivor. I haven’t been over there in a long time, and I can’t find out what any of the quotes on site say (at least on the monument’s website). I am sure that most people equate the holocaust with Jews and I don’t know how this monument seeks to include other victims and correct that misunderstanding. The website gives a paragraph (quoted, above), seems like an afterthought. I think if something as bad that happened to Stephan Ross, it ought to be acknowledged as a fate that befell many more than Jews. I don’t think I’m saying that Jews don’t deserve to be recognized and memorialized when I suggest that empathy ought to be extended to others. I’m not sure the Boston monument delivers that recognition or perpetuates the powerful story we’ve all been led to believe, that Jews were the only victims, or the only ones that mattered.

  • The Captain

    “How do you oppose a memorial like this without coming off as disrespectful?” Simple… you point out that the memorial is the one that “disrespectful”! As they said in the statement, people other than jews where killed in the holocaust. It’s the memorial designers that are the disrespectful ones, and frankly I don’t give two shits about coming off as “disrespectful” to people who don’t have respect for others in the first place.

    • http://freethinkingjew.com/ Freethinking Jew

      To whom do you refer when you say, “people who don’t have respect for others in the first place?”

      • The Captain

        Ahhh the people who designed a memorial to only the people of one ethnicity and religion out of many that where murderd in the holocaust.

        • Randay

          I agree. Also why is it necessary to mention that Libeskind is the son of Holocaust survivors? That is neither here nor there. It has nothing to do with the esthetic or legal quality of his work. It is just for pulling heart strings and trying to create some feeling of guilt. But it is noting we nor our forebears are guilty of. Nothing is said of the background of the originators of the other projects. I am tire of hearing about these professional victims.

    • Randay

      I agree, what is meant by disrespectful? Is the Star of David a religious, cultural, ethnic, or political symbol? It is definitely political as the symbol of the Zionist movement and on the Israeli flag. It is definitely religious as it is, for example, used to identify Jewish temples on maps. The religious aspect alone is enough to exclude it from government property, but it also promotes a political agenda.

      The swastika has been used around the world for thousands of years as a symbol of auspiciousness. It is still used around the world by different cultures and religions: Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. So if the Star of David is allowed, Hindus for example would have to have the right to put up a memorial with their holy symbol as a centerpierce. Imagine the outcry then, but there would be no logical or legal reason to oppose it.

      Allowing the Star of David would just be catering to and giving preferential treatment to one religious/political group. That is disrespectful.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Scott.McElhiney Redorblack Nigelbottom

        I think the Nazi swastika actually goes the other direction from the Eastern versions in most cases.

        • Randay

          The Nazi swastika goes the same “direction” as the Hindu one, but is rotated 45 degrees. A Buddhist picture I saw showed it facing the other way. Of course if it is a free-standing sculpture or piece of jewelry, it depends on which side you look at it. The symbol goes back at least to the bronze age and is found round the world, not just in the East.

  • Mario Strada

    My instinct here is to leave the star of David alone, but the argument that if left alone it will embolden christians and their crosses is a very good one and a very real one. We don’t have a “jewish” problem as far as disrespect of church and state law, we have a Christian problem (which one day may become a Muslim problem and all the christians will have to put the FFRF on speed dial).

    However, I would find it appropriate if they included all the symbols of those persecuted under the Nazi’s higene laws. That would create a number of problems as well, I am not deluded, so maybe only those groups that were expressly slated for extermination should go there and not those that ended up in the camps for other reasons.

    At the end of it, not displaying the Star of David does seem the most reasonable way to handle this. Maybe the FFRF should find sympathetic Jews that can try to reach the designers?

    EDIT: Of course I was thinking of a sandblasted star of David., I didn’t notice that it was the big negative space between the monuments. Yikes! Choose another monument.

    • ZRM

      Yeah, it’s a major issue to ensure that ALL of the Holocaust victims were adequately represented. I personally like the negative space design but agree that it creates a very important precedent for similar Christian cases (i.e. crosses at fallen soldier memorials). The only true secular memorial would be to exclude all symbols. It’d be nice to see them raise an extra 300k privately and build on private land and then they could keep the original design.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      I’m really torn on this one. I know that the Star of David is not an acceptable choice, for all the reasons listed above; it’s a religious symbol on government property and it excludes all the non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust. I know all this, and my head agrees with it.

      On the other hand … While Hitler set out do destroy the Roma, homosexuals, the mentally ill, and many others, that wasn’t the stated goal of his state and it wasn’t what brought him to power. It was his anti-Semitism that did that, and while he definitely targeted a lot of people, Jews were his primary focus. It also honestly took more effort- Jews were well-integrated into German society, while the others were already marginalized groups, so while people may not have known an openly gay, mentally ill, or Roma person (making it easier to dehumanize them), most people in German cities (which was most of the population) would have known Jews as neighbors and friends and colleagues. They still stood by and did nothing, due to the avalanche of of anti-Semitic propaganda and innate strand of it in European culture. If Jews were the primary focus of the Holocaust, is it so wrong to primarily honor them in monuments? A full two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe was wiped out, a proportion that’s hard to believe. Two out of every three Jews: dead. No other population suffered nearly that much.

      But on the other other hand … there’s been an exclusive focus on Jewish victims for a long time. It took far too long to even acknowledge that Jews weren’t the only targets and victims. I like the monument’s proposed design, but in the end, I have to go with my head on this one. It’s a fine monument for a private space, but public monuments should be more inclusive.

      Sorry for the long post, writing it out helped me sort out how I feel about this.

      • WoodyTanaka

        “No other population suffered nearly that much.”

        If I remember correctly, the Roma/Sinti population has a higher percentage of casualties, but a greatly reduced number.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          I honestly don’t know. I had the impression that many of the Roma were able to flee to places in Central Europe like Hungary or Romania- places where Nazi rule was lighter and there was less wholesale deportation and slaughter. Not that those countries like the Roma, because they don’t, but I wasn’t aware the Holocaust had taken a huge toll on their numbers.

      • tsara

        It’s too bad that this is happening in the US. In Canada it would be one of many, many monuments to many, many different groups (there are at least three WWII monuments at my local town hall, each honouring a different group or groups). We also don’t have the same rules about religious symbols or the same level of Christian theocratical encroachment into our government.

        It’s such a nice design and well-intentioned, and :(

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          Yeah.

      • Michael Harrison

        I think the Star of David is appropriate in this case. If Christians want to use this to support their use of the cross, I’d just ask them when the cross was used as a convenient label forced upon them to indicate who to round up.

      • elke

        “No other population suffered nearly that much”

        Really? 90 percent of the Roma were wiped out. 6 million Poles perished in the ovens.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          I don’t know what percentage of Roma died. It was definitely less than 6 million Poles who died in death camps, because the highest death rate we have is 12 million and 6 million of those were Jewish, and there were many people other than Poles who were sent to death camps.

          Because of that bit of basic math, I’m going to have to disbelieve your claim on the Roma as well. It was, of course, a major tragedy for the Roma/Sinti as well, but I had thought less than 2/3 of their number were killed.

          EDIT: This article suggests about 25% of the Roma population was killed during the Holocaust. This is a truly tragic number, of course, but still not nearly so high as 67%.

  • HollowGolem

    Agreed with those who have pointed out FFRF’s comment, regarding non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust. How many Roma/JW/Catholic/homosexual/disabled holocaust survivors do we have still around? They (or their families) would be those with the most standing to speak out directly about this.

    • Kodie

      Wow. We should build a memorial to stand for all time to memorialize a group of people who died, right, because their families are still around. Not because we care that they died, but because people who cared about them individually are still around. ???? We should forget that this happened, that people were rounded up, and killed, for their “type” and just let them go, and the Jews have their people, their own people, who still care to memorialize, let them have it, not because we care, but because they care. Let them build a memorial to their own kind to educate their descendents and remind them that this happened to their people.

      So, those other people don’t have people “around” so nobody should be reminded that they ever existed and met the same fate with the Jews?

      Memorials aren’t for a few people still around to look at – it’s to educate people in the future. It’s not to satisfy the Jews who are “still around” to look at their recent history, but for humans with a beating heart and a conscience to understand that a variety of people were rounded up, imprisoned, and killed. What purpose does a monument serve if it’s only for the living to remember something they remember first-hand? By not acknowledging people on the premise they have no family here, left, or still around, is balls-out fucking ignorant of what monuments are fucking for.

      • HollowGolem

        …Calm the hell down. My point about families of deceased Roma/Jehovah’s Witnesses/etc. was more a legalistic one. As in, they would have more standing to contest this as people who feel the monument didn’t adequately represent.

        Sorry for not making that clear.

  • MrMoto

    As a human being, with the intelligence to discriminate between things, I can see that the purpose of this memorial is to honor a historical and cultural event. It is not to promote a religious viewpoint.

    When symbols are used to represent historical/cultural events, the fact they are religious should not be a sole justification for not using them — only when the intent of the symbol is to promote a religious viewpoint do they become a problem. In fact, to tell Jewish Holocaust survivors that they cannot be represented by on the most import icons of their internment and murder would be a terrible insult. (If my history serves me correctly, Jews were forced to wear a Star of David on their exterior clothing to mark them for abuse by the Nazis)

    A different discussion is whether the memorial has concluded a broad enough acknowledgement of others who suffered during the Holocaust. Any short-shrift there is not the fault of, and the punishment should not be born by, the Jews.

    Does this open the door for, example, Christian symbols? Maybe, if Christians can show they deserve any memorialization. Until then, let’s just continue to take down the blatant symbols of religious privilege erected by Christians, and make sure these new memorials are about remembering real human experience.

  • WoodyTanaka

    I assume that the memorial to all the Native Americans who were ethnically cleansed from Ohio will be erected somewhere in Bavaria…

    I don’t see this as a religion issue at all. The Star of David is both a religious symbol and an ethnic totem, and the Nazi’s persecution of the Jews wasn’t based on religion but on monstrous ideas about “race”.

    So I see no problem, first Amendment wise, as this is clearly not being done to advance the religion, but to identify this set of victims That do not address the under-inclusiveness issue, but that’s a local, non-constitutional issue, to me.

    • C Peterson

      I agree with your view that the Star of David isn’t exclusively a religious symbol. It represents an ethnicity as well, which is ultimately what drove the Holocaust, much more than Judaism as a religion.

      I don’t see the use of this symbol in this context as endorsing any religion at all. The memorial is to people, the majority of whom are represented by it. If millions of Christians were targeted in some sort of genocide, I think a state supported memorial could utilize a cross without crossing any Constitutional lines. Intent matters: is there any appearance of endorsing a specific religion? I don’t see it.

      I do think it is a valid point that Jews weren’t the only victims of the Holocaust. Even though non-Jews represented a small minority, a design that was more inclusive would make a lot of sense. But that’s an argument for the designers, not the funders.

      • WoodyTanaka

        “Even though non-Jews represented a small minority…”

        Well, not really “small.” There were 5 million non-Jews in the Holocaust, but the Jews were the largest single group. (Frighteningly, if Hitler’s plans had come to fruition, those 6 million Jews would have been a minority of people murdered, with the estimates running to 50 million Poles and other Slavs murdered by various means to make was for German colonists.)

        • C Peterson

          Of course, it depends on how you define the Holocaust. Personally, I don’t include the Russians, Slavs, and others who were killed for reasons other than ethnic cleansing. To me, the Holocaust was the genocide of 6 million Jews and a much smaller number of homosexuals, mentally ill, physically ill, etc. I separate that particular genocide from others carried out by the Germans.

          But it doesn’t change my point. However you look at the Holocaust, there were people other than Jews victimized. Whether a few, or a majority, the sensitive thing for the designers of the memorial to do would be to find a way to recognize all.

          • WoodyTanaka

            That is always a question in this area. Myself, I believe that the term is best used as an umbrella to encompass all those deliberately murdered in order to bring about National Socialism’s political goals, and that the more specific terms (Shoah, Porajmos, etc.) are appropriate to describe the subsets of the larger Holocaust.

            I can’t tell whether your phrase “who were killed for reasons other than ethnic cleansing” is meant to modify “others” or “Russians, Slavs, and others.”

            I would point out that the murders of the Soviet Citizens and POWs, as well as the murder of the millions of non-Jewish Poles, was part and parcel of the ethnic cleansing that the Germans had planned for after the war, the Generalplan Ost.

            I am curious, why do you use that definition? You appear to exclude the millions of Slavs who were murdered. It seems very odd to me that you would include, for example, the few thousands of homosexuals who were killed but not the 2.5 million non-Jewish Poles or the 2-3 million Soviet POWs, when the anti-gay bigotry that motivated the former was little different than the ethnic bigotry that motivated the latter.

            • C Peterson

              I just separate things by intent. What was done to the Jews and some others considered “genetically” defective in Germany and their occupied territories was very political in nature. Many others were killed simply because they were seen as inferior and it was desired to take their land and belongings.

              Because extermination of Jews was at the start, and at the heart, of the Holocaust, we have many memorials that focus on just that. I don’t know if this particular memorial is intended to recognize just the “Jewish Holocaust” or the more wide Holocaust that included millions of non-Jewish victims. I don’t have a problem with either, but that would affect my feelings about the particular design elements incorporated.

              • Randay

                The first people to be put in camps were communists, socialists, and other opponents of the Nazis. For whatever the reason, the those killed are equally dead. I see no reason for giving any one group preferential treatment. As another poster mentioned, there is no recognition of the tens of millions of Chinese and other Southeast Asians massacred by the Japanese.

                • C Peterson

                  I’m not suggesting any sort of preferential treatment or preferential recognition.

              • WoodyTanaka

                Right, and what I am saying is that there was little fundamental difference between the Nazi’s intent regarding the Jews, the Slavs and, in my example, the homosexuals who were killed. Differences in degree, not kind, among all 3, so I don’t get the basis for ghe distinction you make.

              • elke

                The Poles were the first victims — both of mass slaughter and of the ovens at Auschwitz.

                “Polish Christians and Catholics were actually the first victims of the notorious German death camp. For the first 21 months after it began in 1940, Auschwitz was inhabited almost exclusively by Polish non-Jews. The first ethnic Pole died in June 1940 and the first Jew died in October 1942.”

                *holocaustforgotten.com.

                Oddly, through a kind of myopia, Jews are poorly versed in the facts of the Holocaust (vs. Shoah, the Jewish-victims only reference). They generally ignore the 5 million “others.” Why? Are some people more equal than other people, even in death?

                Wouldn’t it underscore the need to stand against fascism if the monument was HISTORICALLY ACCURATE and made people understand the wide net of Nazi hatred? The Holocaust was a human tragedy, not just a Jewish tragedy.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  While the Holocaust was a human tragedy, you’re stripping it of much of what made it genocide as opposed to just war deaths or civilian deaths. The Nazis set out to exterminate “lesser” races; Poles were not targeted with the savagery or focus that Jews were. Additionally, Poles were historically extremely anti-Semitic. 90% of the Jewish population in Poland died in the Holocaust. 90%. Of the 3.3 million (3,300,000) Jews in Poland pre-war, 3 million (3,000,000) of them were killed. Poles were not solely innocent victims, and many actively collaborated in the murder of their Jewish neighbors.

                  The Holocaust was not only a Jewish tragedy, but it was definitely in large part a Jewish tragedy. Denying that is to deny a huge part of the history and meaning of it.

                  Your history of Auschwitz is a little self-serving as well. There were three camps; Auschwitz 1 was administrative and penal (like a prison) and opened in 1940, Auschwitz 2 (Auschwitz-Birkenau) was the extermination camp which opened in 1942, and Auschwitz 3 was a slave labor camp. Poles were kept mostly at Auschwitz 1; conditions were horrible and many died, but it wasn’t the deliberate extermination that you see happening at Birkenau. And yes, Poles died at Birkenau too, but in much lower numbers than Jews (including Polish Jews).

                • http://www.facebook.com/Scott.McElhiney Redorblack Nigelbottom

                  “Oddly, through a kind of myopia, Jews are poorly versed in the facts of the Holocaust” “They generally…” Way to make a blanket statement about a group of millions with whom I doubt you know any on a personal basis. Bit of stereotyping for a purpose? I don’t see why this is on State grounds in Ohio… seems a bit out of place, but as far as the art, the other entries are atrocious looking. As to why the Star of David is used (and it is beautifully done) “New York artist Daniel Libeskind, the son of Holocaust survivors, designed the memorial. His plan features a split limestone path toward two, upright panels. Cutouts on the panels are positioned to reveal a broken, six-pointed Star of David. An account from an Auschwitz death camp survivor would be embossed on the panels, and a stone wall that sits along the path would have an engraved quote honoring the death camp liberators: “If you save one life, it is as if you saved the world.”

                  Note that the symbol is what that victim of the camp would have been forced to wear, and that nothing addresses religion… and the symbol is both in negative space and broken.

                  I really suggest going and looking at the other entries… they are confusing and ugly. I’d also verklempt (is that the right word) about it being there at all. Seems like we could do a memorial that is a bit more timely if any at all. How about one to the civilian victims of our drone attacks all over the world?

      • Lerris

        The problem isn’t just how we feel about it. US law is pretty specific about how and where the government can interact with religion. Even if you argue that its a cultural symbol as well, the “as well” doesn’t matter, its still a religious symbol, on government property paid for by government funds. The fact that two other designs didn’t have religious imagery on them is something to consider. A holocaust memorial on state grounds isn’t a legal issue. One with a religious symbol is a big issue. While politicians might be wary about appearing against a holocaust memorial, I’m frankly surprised some of the government lawyers weren’t screaming at them.

        Given the disparity of funding raised by outside sources and the amount kicked in by the government, it seems like the whole question could have been avoided by having it privately funded, and put on private property.

    • SeekerLancer

      I think the argument can definitely be made that the star is not representing a religion in this context.

      I agree with you and don’t think this is a constitutional issue though I’m concerned about the effects it will have on instances that are constitutional issues from people who won’t understand the difference between representing an ethnic group and promoting a religion.

      Ultimately I have no problem with the monument as it is, but I kind of wish they had chosen a different design or included references to other groups that suffered.

    • Randay

      The only thing you got right was the mention of Native Americans. In Ohio and all the other states a memorial to them would be more appropriate. So would a memorial to lynching victims in the states. While the majority of lynchings were of blacks, whites were also lynched, mostly in the Western States. Women and girls were also lynched. Then in many states there should be slavery memorials.

      The U.S wasn’t responsible for the Holocaust, so why should there be any memorials or museums to it? The U.S. was responsible for slavery, but doesn’t have a national slavery museum. The 2001 project for one far outside Washington D.C. on donated land went bankrupt because it couldn’t even pay property taxes.

      By contrast, $190 million was raised for the useless downtown DC U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and it was built in 5 years. 60%, $47 million dollars, of its operating budget comes from the Fed Gov. Empty it out and put in the Slavery Museum or maybe we can get Germany to build one there instead.

      • WoodyTanaka

        You’re wrong. Everything I said was correct.

      • Cpt_Justice

        The US was responsible for slavery? No other country had it? No other country promoted it, or dealt in slaves? None? (Or did you mean something else, & just said it wrong?)

  • the moother

    The Rwandan genocide took proportionately far more lives… 800,000 humans hacked and burned in a matter of weeks…

    All this while Bill Clinton sat idly by and watched… Where is their memorial?

    • UWIR

      Funny how you don’t see Joe Klein stopping African genocides.

      • Spuddie

        Ugh and LOL at the same time.
        Genocide humor is tough to pull off if your name is not Mel Brooks

        • UWIR

          And tricky even then.

          It is a bit odd to criticizing atheists for allegedly not giving hot meals to tornado victims in America when there are people in Africa that aren’t getting any meals at all, though, isn’t it? I mean, I feel sorry for those people, but from a purely rational perspective, it’s rather difficult to argue that this the most effective way to spend charity dollars. But of course actually saying that makes you sound like a cold-hearted bastard.

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

    I should think it would be very easy to politely mention that laws and an article in the Constitution about this sort of thing and if someone chooses to attack you as disrespectful you can again point out politely that leaving out homosexuals, Jehova’s Witnesses, gypsies and other groups that were also sent to the concentration camps could also be construed as disrespectful.

  • Bdole

    “no one wanted to be labeled as anti-Semitic or against the Holocaust.”

    um…wha? Is anyone here pro-Holocaust?

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Pretty sure Anne meant Holocaust denier.

  • Neutron Jack

    “the memorial was approved because no one wanted to be labeled as anti-Semitic or against the Holocaust”

    I wouldn’t mind being labeled as against the Holocaust. Seems to me that it was a bad thing.

    • UWIR

      Being labeled as against the Holocaust was a bad thing? (See what you’ve started?)

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Can we all agree that’s a pretty damn nice looking memorial for a change?

    • Charles

      No, we can’t all agree for a change, what’s the fun in that? It is a really nice looking memorial design though, artistically speaking. I like it a lot. Not to crazy about the planed location. I’ve always liked that the Jewish community kept the memory of the Holocaust alive, but its always upset me that that memory doesn’t include the other victims very often.

  • Jim

    Why not a memorial to the Chinese dead (estimates up to 20 million), Soviets (up to 20 million), Poles (up to 4 million), etc?

    • Kevin R. Cross

      Or really up the ante and put one up for the Armenian Genocide.

  • Bulldog Rosie

    I don’t get it. Ohio has $300,000 extra dollars lying around?

  • Karl R

    I’ve been thinking about this situation all day (pro-monument and FFRF’s objection), having first read about it in today’s Morning Heresy (thanks Paul Fidalgo!) At first I was surprised how the objection struck me as ludicrous yet legitimate, and it’s been interesting to contemplate my personal conflict all day. This is an excellent post to put it in perspective, and I look forward to the additional comments it generates. Cheers!

  • DougI

    FFRF is essentially standing up for Christians right to be recognized as being victims of the Holocaust. That ought to upset Christians because they’ll be confused on how to properly hate Atheists.

  • closetatheist

    I am constantly blown away by the fact that sooooo many people believe that only Jews were targeted by the Nazi’s. I’ve heard Pastors demonize evolution by claiming it lead to the execution of 6 million Jews in the holocaust and I want to yell, what about the 5 million non-jews? They didn’t matter, you SOB?! Also, I watched an interview of a Jewish man who claimed that if the state of Israel had existed in WWll the holocaust would not have happened. I had to turn the interview off. The pompous asshole apparently wouldn’t have considered the mass murder of 5 million various other groups of people to be a “holocaust.”

    • keddaw

      The (not actually) 5 million others were also targeted as sub-human or sub-standard humans to protect the purity of the race. Hence disabled, Africans, Roma Gypsies, homosexuals etc. So their comments about evolution, while massively misguided, are just as applicable to Jews as to all other groups targeted for extermination.

      • elke

        “Not actually 5 million…”
        Then you disagree with such sources as jewishvirtuallibrary.org, holocaustforgottten.com and educational materials on the Holocaust distributed nationwide? If you want to slice the body count another way, 6 million POLISH CITIZENS died the in camps. Aren’t we all equal in death? Don;t we all experience horror in the same way?

        • keddaw

          Not relevant to the point.

        • Cpt_Justice

          3 million of those Poles died 8solely* because they were Jews. The other 3 million died for many different reasons. No, we’re not equal in death, when the death makes a statement. Especially one that people refuse to learn.

      • Cpt_Justice

        No, the other victims were killed for a LOT of DIFFERENT reasons. Yes, the whole “purity of the race” crap, but also mental defectives, political dissidents and sexual “deviants”. The reason the Jewish victims are fixated on is because they were the main target, and the highest number of any group, by far. For instance, read the Nuremberg laws; they mention JEWS as people to not marry, do business with, etc.

    • Stev84

      In that case it’s probably sheer ignorance, but as said above it depends on how you define “Holocaust”. Jews are a specific group because they were sent to extermination camps and immediately killed. Aside from the T4 euthanasia program, and many Soviet POWs, most other groups were sent to labor camps and worked to death and/or died because of the bad living conditions. The outcome isn’t any different of course, but it’s an important distinction to understand what happened (the two types of camps were organized differently for example).

      You can find competing definitions among scholars. Some refer specifically to the Jewish genocide, while others include the other groups as well.

      • closetatheist

        I wasn’t aware that there were various definitions and terms used among scholars when referring to the holocaust….that makes sense because people were in fact targeted for different reasons and dealt with in various manners. I understand that *maybe* these people were referring to the “Jewish genocide” and were well aware of the massive genocide of others. But, I hear this so much that I’m inclined to believe that many Christians are ignorant that others were targeted or think that Jews are the only group worth mourning (like those who are obsessed with end of times prophecies).

        Anyway, I grew up in a Christian school and it was college before I realized that people other than Jews were targeted by the Nazis on a large-scale. The teachers and books just LOVED talking only about the Jewish genocide. So, its the massive ignorance of people that frustrates me – especially the ignorance of those, like pastors, who think they’re educated and have the means to actually become educated but decide not to do so.

  • viaten

    I hope no Jews come by and act in some way to make it a religious thing of it, but I don’t know what that might be and can’t see something like that happening. I’m thinking everyone would take as an ethnic symbol of a people that have been persecuted, but I don’t know if it should be considered a church state separation issue or not. I’m wondering what Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and other religions could do along similar lines, or so claimed lines.

  • viaten

    What if some Muslims took exception to it? Does that make it a religious symbol issue then?

  • sane37

    Just don’t include the star. The holocaust would still have happened, and the memorial would still remind us of said travesty.

    • Spuddie

      That would make sense. The National Holocaust Memorial doesn’t have one.

  • Janice Clanfield

    Why not just put is on the lawn in front of a temple instead? Easy answer.

    • Cpt_Justice

      Because Jews already remember the Holocaust. It’s other people who forget. Or, worse, deny it.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    The Star of David is symbolic of the ethnic group that was the target of the Shoah, and thus not a strictly religious symbol in this context. And historically it was an element of the Nazi persecution, as Jews were forced to wear the symbol to identify themselves in the Reich. It is a delusional overreach to try and strip every vestige of religion from the public square. Religion is an integral part of human history and culture, and it’s presence does not automatically add up to endorsement or a violation of the separation of church and state.

    • Cpt_Justice

      I totally agree; the Jews were the main target, so a Jewish star is appropriate for the memorial. I also agree completely that in this context, it cannot violate the separation of church & state. However, that doesn’t suddenly make the Star of David a mere “ethnic symbol”.

  • Mike

    Does the star of david represent a religious group or an ethnic group? I think that determination could help determine its Constitutional standing.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Well, in Salazar v. Buono, (the Mojave cross case) Justice Antonin Scalia in his (ahem) wisdom assured us all that a cross is not a symbol of a religion, but a a symbol of death. That was when I realized to my surprise that all those big buildings around my town with crosses on them aren’t churches. They must be funeral homes, morgues, and tombs. Whoda thought?

      I’m not sure if this would have any bearing on a challenge to the star in this memorial. Scalia’s absurdity is just an example of how facile, shallow, and expedient some people can be to avoid facing a conflict about something they like.

  • Smiles

    Help me out… How is it that the Star of David is both religious and ethnic? Isn’t it only ethnic because the religion forbids its adherents from marrying outsiders? This isolationism led to the ethnic identity…I do not see how they are mutually exclusive. How would insisting that the crucifix represents anglo-saxon ethnicity be any different?

    • Cpt_Justice

      It really isn’t ethnic. Secular Jews like to say it is, to excuse them being irreligious. Other religions forbid marriage w/outsiders, & they are never called “ethnic”.

  • eonL5

    Totally not-on-topic, maybe they had to choose the illegal option because the other two were, at least to my aesthetic, fugly. But really, I feel the best argument is by those who say, “why does Ohio NEED a Holocaust memorial paid (partially) by taxpayers?”

  • http://www.dougberger.net Doug B.

    What the media focused on was a mock up was built at the direction of Mr. Finan made of pvc pipe, some cloth, and duck tape. He wanted to show what the memorial would look like to scale. People complained about it and the star of David included was painted over – yet they had no problem approving the permanent version.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Scott.McElhiney Redorblack Nigelbottom

      What are you talking about? How do you paint over negative space?

      • http://www.dougberger.net Doug B.

        As I wrote: there was a mock up built made of pvc pipe, some cloth, and duct tape. They painted the star where it would be on the actual memorial then people complained and the star was painted over

  • Jim Smith

    The memorial shouldn’t be a religious one. We have enough of those from all religions all over the world. What we need is a memorial that is testament to the fact that man can, does and will continue to treat his fellow man in horrible ways. I think the memorial should be of a person weeping over our loss of humanity because we give it up to false gods and symbols.

    Though that being said though, artistically, it is a gorgeous piece.


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