My Cross to Bear

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27 Responses

  1. Ken says:

    Scalia is the epitome of the "what I am accustomed to is, by definition, neutral" mindset.

  2. Rick H. says:

    That guy really does make everything up as he goes along, doesn't he? To him, the world is (or should be) made up exclusively of pudgy Italian-American christians of a certain age, wealth and social standing. Anyone else has no complaint to make.

  3. Matt Howard says:

    He's Catholic. He's viewing cases through the lens of his experience and beliefs, just as Sotomayor said she would do. With two-thirds of the Court now Catholic, we can expect an end to Church-State separation.

  4. TomH says:

    I can't wait to hear what they say about the cross now being on private property, and if valid, the future conveyances of 5 to 10 square feet of lawn outside town halls across the nation.

    Heck, it's not unconstitutional to SEE a religious display from public property or put one up adjacent to public property. What is the Court to rule, the conveyance was improper because – – well, that's cheating. It messes everything up when a private property owner can do what they want. That's just not right.

    But like Charles, I could care less about these things, except to get all entertained and inclined to incite argument when people get all worked up about it. Also, the insistence of government officials to proselytize is amazing to me. Is this an appropriate use of public funds? Is the public option creche the only solution?

  5. Dustin says:

    In response to TomH's point above, I think one can make a ruling baring the transfer of land that doesn't stop private land owners from doing whatever sort of displays they want. The court coud find that it was unconstitutional for Congress to make that particular transfer since its purpose is very obviously to allow a religious display to be put up on what would otherwise be public land. It's similar to the 'moment of silence' in school case. It is not unconstitutional for a school to observe a moment of silence in general. However, it has been ruled to be unconstitutional if the obvious goal was to institute prayer in school.

  6. Charles says:

    TomH, I don't even know if the conveyance issue is properly presented, since the conveyance isn't irrevocable. If the VFW fails to properly maintain the land, it reverts back to the government.

  7. Old Geezer says:

    I trust Scalia will support my plan to erect a swastika on government land as a memorial to all those Americans who died in WWII? It was, after all, somewhat of a "universal symbol" of it's time in some parts of the war world.

  8. Patrick says:

    I lost all faith in Scalia as the principled justice who actually approaches Roberts' specious example of an umpire, calling em as he sees em regardless of his sympathies, when he concurred with the majority in Gonzales v. Raich, the California medical marijuana case.

    If ever a Justice's avowed principles called for a result contrary to sympathy, it was Scalia in Raich. Scalia's concurrence boiled down to "I just don't like filthy hippies and their marijuana, so I'll disregard my history and my record."

  9. astonied says:

    Yep its time to draw the names out of a big bingo cage and they become a justice. Same with President.

  10. Fred Z says:

    You take something as a given that I have never been able to accept: "1. Religious displays on public property are clearly unconstitutional."

    So a private citizen cannot wander around a park on a sunny summer day with a religious statue or religious placard? I hope that is not the law.

    I hope the law is:"1. Religious displays by any governmental authority on public property are clearly unconstitutional."

  11. the friendly grizzly says:

    Scalia is first, last, and all through, Roman Catholic first and a Constitutionalist somewhere way down the line. He is everything Robert Bork would have been.

  12. Jdog says:

    Scalia is the epitome of the “what I am accustomed to is, by definition, neutral” mindset.
    … or normal, natural, unexceptionable, sure. Bugs the heck out of me, when I notice — as I did, say, in that bad paragraph in Heller.

    As to "religious displays on public property," my own sense is that they should be regulated in the same way that any other expression of protected behavior is. I certainly should have the right to walk around on public property sporting an "Obama Was Born in Kenya" t-shirt (no, I don't think he was), or one expressing my own religious position "I'm a relaxed agnostic; chill — you'll know soon enough," and figure that ought to apply to other folks, too.

    But should I get to put up the symbol of relaxed agnosticism (a shrugging question mark) next to the cross in question? I'd say no, as the cross oughtn't be there, either.

  13. Charles says:

    Fred Z., you are being a bit pedantic for my tastes but I'll concede the point. I don't think that a guy with a Jesus fish on his car needs to be kept out of the Yellowstone parking lot to preserve the First Amendment.

  14. Al says:

    Welcome to San Diego, where we've been dealing with a similar issue surrounding the "Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross" since 1988. Of course we will not be outdone by San frickin' Bernradino so our levels of disingenuousness absolutely towers over just about anyone else's when it comes to our cross. In this case the "Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross" wasn't actually called that until 1988 when, coincidentally I'm sure, someone wondered why a giant cross was on state owned land.

    Prior to this the cross was known as the "Mt. Soledad Easter Cross."

  15. E-Bell says:

    You know what the problem with these establishment clause cases is?

    They're petty. No one is actually harmed by a nativity scene in a public park, much less a cross erected in the middle of the freakin' desert.

    The plaintiffs in these cases are invariably a minority so distinct that the communities they live in probably don't know they're there. I mean, you don't see a bunch of New York Jews or Dearborn, MI Muslims bringing these suits. No, no, those folks might actually have a legitimate gripe that needs addressing.

    Instead, It's always some wacky lone atheist with no real community presence who wants to make a name for himself by challenging a venerated institution. Seriously, does having "In God We Trust" printed on our money *really* harm Michael Newdow?

  16. Ken says:

    E-Bell, despite working to be a Christian myself, I am offended by government sponsorship of religion. I'm not all butthurt offended, but I don't like it. And even if the harm to individuals is minimal, there is a harm — that to the rule of law. I don't like nodding and winking at constitutional violations because they are relatively harmless — it sets a bad precedent.

  17. Charles says:

    E-Bell, the pettiness of the plaintiffs is matched by the feigned surprise of the defendants and their allies. The Mojave Cross is not a stand-alone case. Monuments to Christendom like it are planted all over the country in violation of the law, and they have to be challenged one at a time. And yet the planters get offended at each individual challenge.

    I don't believe in God, so I don't know who the "God" or the "We" is on my money. Would I get out of bed to file a lawsuit to remove the change it? No, but I wouldn't mind if it were changed at all.

  18. E-Bell says:

    Ken, you and Charles make a good point with regard to the rule of law and upholding the Constitution, but every little slight doesn't demand protracted litigation, using up who-knows-how-many hours of court time to resolve.

    There are tons of greater harms out there that don't get a smidgen of the attention that these cases get. How many folks get wrongfully arrested, spend the night in jail and are then released without charges – but never sue, much less argue their cases to the Supreme Court?

    I just think there's a better use for society's resources.

  19. Charles says:

    I couldn't agree more, E-Bell. So just have the government take down the monuments and we're done!

    The reason the cases are protracted is because the governments don't say "Our bad!" Instead, they argue "it isn't religious"; "it isn't our land"; "the Establishment Clause doesn't apply to states/local government"; "the Establishment Clause only refers to a State Religion"; "we've recontextualized the religious monument by placing it alongside other monuments"; etc. The plaintiffs typically set forth a pretty straightforward case: (1) This is public property; (2) that is a religious symbol. It is the defense papers that are complicated and abstruse.

    Either the litigation is protracted or the offensive monument's presence is.

  20. PLW says:

    Also, I'd expect that large minorities often have more strength in the other branches of government and therefore needn't work through the judiciary as frequently.

  21. Bryan says:

    Scalia is right, as usual. The cross is a symbol for death above and beyond its religious significance. There's plenty of evidence for it in both real life and on the Web.

    The absurdity of arguing against Scalia on this is easy to illustrate. Pick any memorial shape. I'll start a religion and make that the symbol of my religion. Poof! Instantly I have removed the religious neutrality of the symbol.

  22. Charles says:

    Your analogy makes no sense, Bryan. The cross is not a "memorial shape" that became "the symbol of a religion." The cross is a shape that, because of the centrality of the crucifixion to Christianity, became a symbol for memorializing the dead to Christians.

    The only people who think that the cross is a catch-all symbol of death are Christians who aren't in touch with their roots.

  23. Patrick says:

    Bryan, the cross may be a symbol of death, but it's primarily a symbol of the hope for resurrection after death through the boundless grace of Jesus Christ. That there may be some person out there who recognizes the cross as a death symbol, without being aware that the symbol is tied to the Christian religion, is conceivable but unlikely. You could argue, I suppose, that the cross was a death symbol before Christ's crucifixion by virtue of the Roman method of execution, but the Romans did not use it as a universal symbol for that purpose, nor did anyone else. All of the cross's cultural significance, as it relates to death, derives from the overwhelming dominance of Christianity as a western and world religion, and the centrality of the crucifixion and resurrection to that religion.

    The law does recognize history, and culture. Scalia's (willful) obtuseness aside, everyone on earth knows that the cross is primarily a Christian symbol of death and grace.

    As for your contention that you could take any symbol and make it religious through your own weirdo invented religion, de minimis non curat lex.

  24. Ezra says:

    I am really frightened by the words "Scalia is right, as usual."

  25. Al says:

    So, they voted along party lines but punted on the 1st Amendment issue?

  26. Charles says:

    More or less, Al, with various degrees of integrity as there was a plurality (Kennedy/Roberts/Alito), two concurrences (Roberts, Scalia/Thomas and Alito) and two dissents (Stevens/Ginsburg/Sotomayor and Breyer). I'm still going through the opinions, but the Scalia/Thomas concurrence appears to be bullshit on an epic scale.

    The Roberts concurrence is a one-paragraph job based on a spectacularly dunderheaded concession by Bueno's counsel at oral argument and that will need to be dealt with below. The Breyer dissent is based entirely on the procedural posture of the case and ducks the constitutional issues entirely.

  27. Patrick says:

    This is a judgment without a holding. The judgment is that this particular cross can stay on this plot of land, and that's all this case stands for.