Stolen Valor – Military Service Exploited for Religion in Government
Selected promotions of religion under the guise of honoring the military
Those who have died for our country are rolling in their graves that their service should be used to justify Christian privilege and the suggestion that the Christian cross is the symbol for patriotism and service to the nation. This is a case of stolen valor when the service of Jews, Hindus, Muslims, atheists, and others are gathered to defend specifial privileges for Christians. The Camp Pendleton cross and the feature below on the Mt Soledad Easter Cross provided additional commentary, but the tactic is the same in each case.
- Coos Bay, Oregon wants to retain a Christian shrine with a war plaque. MAAF is submitted commentary along with local residents.
- Decorated Afghanistan War Veteran Sues North Carolina Town Over Sectarian Symbols At Veterans’ Memorial, Nov 2, 2012, A 2 hour documentary exposes Christian nation theology underlying religious shrines for war memorials. In King, NC, a war memorial holds one flagpole to provide a privileged place for Christianity. The city council has provided a lottery for other religions, but the thin veneer of diversity has led almost exlusively to a privileged position for Christianity at a government memorial. A veteran who spoke up have been ostracized and the tyranny of the majority eventually won in King. ACLU threatens lawsuit, City council legislates lottery
- Lake Elsinore, CA Christian shrine proposed for city “veterans” memorial – **MAAF Letter to Elsinore City Council, Nov 7, 2012**, Council mulling decision, Nov 3, 2012; Veteran plea for secular memorial, Nov 4, 2012, Leaning toward religious memorial, Nov 7, 2012, Press-Enterprise covers MAAF challenge, Nov 8, 2012, Council approves Memorial, Nov 14, 2012
- American Humanist Association challenges 40-foot-tall Maryland National Capital Park cross
- Woonsocket, RI cross also uses military service to protect Christian symbols.Aug 5 2012 update
- Consolidated report on issues including Congressional bills, Jan 2012; Apr 2013 update by Paul Fidalgo
- Summary Report on Camp Pendleton cross, Dec 2012
- Perspective on civilian crosses, perfectly legal
- Pending in Congress now are HR 290 to encourage the use of religious symbols in war memorials and HR 2070, encouraging the addition of a prayer to the WWII memorial. In these efforts, our Congressional leaders pander to base pressure from the majority to enshrine religion in government in direct contradiction to the Constitution.
- Camp Marmal Cross - an Army chaplain affixed a 6-foot cross to the chapel tent at Camp Marmal in Afghanistan. This permanent religious fixture violates Army regulations and after a month, leaders finally had it removed. Removing the cross was a simple and appropriate response that infringes on no private expressions of religion.
- Camp Pendleton Cross - a 13-foot cross has been erected at Camp Pendleton to turn a military base into a Christian shrine. MAAF calls for action.
- 65-foot cross at Bordelon Field Marine Base in Hawaii removed as unconstitutional. Easter cross falsely defended as war memorial after Constitutional objections brought forward.
- Veterans Jesus co-opting of huge Jesus statue on public Forest land being defended as veterans shrine
- Bald Knob Cross, update 23 Jan 2013
- Mojave cross issue at Snopes – second example of veterans being used to defend a Christian monument, Apr 2010. An Apr 2012 LA Times report says the site will be sold for private land but the to mark the supposedly private property.
- Summum Aphorisms vs Christian commandments at Slate – third example of veterans being used to defend a Christian monument, Nov 2008
- Capitol Visitors Center religious motto
- Utah Highway Crosses
- Editorial supporting religious emblems on military grave markers
Mt Soledad Easter Cross – original tactic
On Mt Soledad in La Jolla, CA (near San Diego, CA, A huge cross was, make no mistake, put up in 1913 as an ‘Easter Cross’ on city land to promote Christianity. In 1989, foxhole atheist Phil Paulson and others who objected to Christian promotion on public land, filed suit to have the cross removed. Current plaintiffs include Steve Trunk, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, Inc, Richard A Smith, Mina Sagheb, Judith M Copeland
Christian and veterans organizations started putting up pictures of veterans to suggest the cross should stay. They have had much success revising history to claim that this huge Christian monument had always been a war memorial. This is a travesty perpetrated against all those who want their service honored, not re-purposed for as legal distractions for Christian privilege. in 2005, facing court-ordered removal of the cross for being what it is, a promotion of Christianity on public land, the land immediately under the cross was transferred to federal control.
In January 2011, after over 20 years of battles, the Ninth Circuit court ruled unanimously that a huge cross on public land overlooking a major city violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. The Ninth Circuit refused to re-hear case, maintaining lower court ruling In January, that the monument, “conveys a message of government endorsement of religion that violates the Establishment Clause” However, the lower court stopped short of ordering the cross removed and suggested that the cross could be modified. There still exists a huge loophole for promotion of Christianity through the government. The cross still dishonors veterans, treating us as legal pawns instead of honored patriots.
Some proponents of the Easter Cross suggest that the cross is not really a religious symbol or that it is not significant to the memorial. As an atheist, I am surprised that Christians would allow such a denigration of their religious symbol. Some have suggested that removal of the Soledad cross would lead to challenges against the religious emblems placed on grave markers at national cemeteries. MAAF will oppose all such challenges. The more likely scenario is that court support of the cross will lead to more abuse of veterans in protecting other Christian displays, such as the Mojave Cross and Summum Monument cases.
Additional background on the Soledad Cross:
- Supreme Court affirms unconstitutionality of Soledad Cross
- Ninth Circuit refuses to hear case - maintains lower court ruling In January, that the monument, “conveys a message of government endorsement of religion that violates the Establishment Clause”
- Federal appeal rules cross unconstitutional, with Video, Jan 5, 2011
- Link to lawsuit decision (reference page 46)
- Mt Soledad Rally after the court ruling, with video, ABC local news, including San Diego Coalition of Reason
- Jewish War Veterans asserting that this is no war memorial, but a Christian promotions
- San Diego News Room - additional coverage, Jan 2011
- Voice of San Diego review by Bob Stein explaining the legal conflict
- Military.com coverage of legislators trying to mesh Christianity and the US military
- Fox opinion propaganda piece ”Ninth Circuit Denies America Is a Christian Nation” – if only that were the case
- Wikipedia article on Soledad - more information, but it may not be accurate.
- Phil Paulson is a revered former airborne soldier and Vietnam veteran who originally brought the suit. MAAF proposed a birthday party along with local organizations who brought the event together. Nearly 100 attendees, including the leaders of a dozen local and national freethought organizations, came together on Labor Day weekend in 2006 for the event. Phil had worked for 17 years on the Soledad cross case, and this was a small tribute to honor his heroic efforts.