Author:Bardi, Jennifer

This is the winter of our cross dissent. As I write we are nineteen days away from oral arguments in Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission v. American Humanist Association, in which the AHA will argue, again, that a giant Christian cross on government land is unconstitutional. We will argue that in addition to a government's endorsement of one religion over all others, dedicating the Bladensburg cross to all war veterans dishonors and excludes non-Christian Americans who have served their country in the US Armed Forces.

There was a time when I didn't fully grasp the necessity of pursuing

these cases where a cross stood on public land. But as our country becomes more ethnically diverse and the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans grows, the idea that non-Christians should somehow assimilate into a predominantly Christian culture becomes increasingly absurd. It also ignores the fact that the United States is not, and never has been, a theocracy. Nor has it ever declared an official religion; the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment guarantees that it never will. And yet, when a cross stands on government land, affixed with a plaque honoring Americans who fought and sacrificed in war, a person standing before it could be excused for thinking that this is, indeed, a Christian nation. I see now how important it is to clarify that it's not. Part of the issue too with the cross in question, which towers forty-feet high on a busy traffic median in Bladensburg, Maryland, is that it's just so damned big. The message--THIS IS A CHRISTIAN PLACE--so overwhelming.

As stated so succinctly by AHA Senior Counsel Monica L. Miller, who will argue AHA's case before the Supreme Court, "Using a Christian cross as a war memorial does not make the cross secular. It makes the war memorial religious." If folks want to maintain the structure as a war memorial, its shape will simply have to change. For some good examples see "What a Secular Memorial Looks Like" herein.

I've heard other nonbelievers say that if Christians weren't so hell-bent on running everyone's lives--dictating women's reproductive choices and everyone's gender identities and sexual preferences--they wouldn't care about a giant cross. I can only imagine what the extreme religious right would make of the activities discussed in this issue's fascinating piece by Becky Garrison on polyamory...

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