Judge blocks ‘unmistakably religious’ monument in southern California

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A federal judge on Monday blocked a construction of a monument in southern California, ruling it would be an “unmistakably religious” symbol on public property.


The Lake Elsinore City Council unanimously approved the construction of the polished black granite memorial last year, which would depict a soldier kneeling in prayer before a Christian cross. The City Council planned to build the monument at the entrance of the Lake Elsinore Diamond Stadium, which is owned but not operated by the city.

The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center filed a lawsuit over the monument in June, alleging it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Written By: Eric W. Dolan
continue to source article at rawstory.com

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  1. The entire sentiment is crap, even without the religious symbols. Militarists and professional war-makers (and mongers) love to chant nonsense like “Freedom is not free” and to equate the deaths of the fallen soldiers with martyrdom for TRUTH and HONOR, but it was never a question of freedom. Or of Defending the Homeland. Not since WWII. They try to project an image of stalwart young men standing guard over cowering women and children, protecting them from the barbarians outside, and that is the same cartoon lie as the Christian image of a guardian angel hovering over our heads.
    But in fact, no nation has threatened the United States since Pearl Harbor. Every war after that has been waged by choice by the US military for reasons unrelated to our freedom. And the latest ‘torch’ they hold up is September 11, which was a deranged attack specifically on symbols of military and corporate might, and not perpetrated by any entity that a division of soldiers could address. US military propaganda is in the same category as religious propaganda, self-glorifying and irrational.

    • In reply to #3 by justinesaracen:

      The entire sentiment is crap, even without the religious symbols. Militarists and professional war-makers (and mongers) love to chant nonsense like “Freedom is not free” and to equate the deaths of the fallen soldiers with martyrdom for TRUTH and HONOR, but it was never a question of freedom. Or of…

      I agree. Another interesting point is that, with the exception of the invasion of Grenada and Panama, they haven’t won a war since WW11. Korea – draw, Vietnam – loss, Lebanon – loss, Somalia – loss, First Gulf – fiasco, Second Gulf (Iraq) – strategic retreat before it collapses, Afghanistan – currently getting out before it collapses. Greatest country in the world though.

      • In reply to #7 by Kevin Murrell:

        In reply to #3 by justinesaracen:

        I agree. Another interesting point is that, with the exception of the invasion of Grenada and Panama, they haven’t won a war since WW11. Korea – draw, Vietnam – loss

        Although some political analysts (e.g. Chomsky) would say that winning or losing wasn’t the main point in Vietnam anyway. The real reasons for that war were to assert US power. Win, lose, or draw, if you resist the US this is what happens to your country. And when you look at the incredible devastation that Vietnam suffered and the brutal torture practiced by the puppet government the US supported it was an effective lesson. The other main goal was to make money for US defense contractors and that part was certainly a glorious victory.

        • In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #7 by Kevin Murrell:

          In reply to #3 by justinesaracen:

          I agree. Another interesting point is that, with the exception of the invasion of Grenada and Panama, they haven’t won a war since WW11. Korea – draw, Vietnam – loss

          Although some political analysts (e.g. Chomsky) would say that w…

          Totally agree. But still, in popular thought you fight wars to win. Although they usually lose, or at best draw, they can always make a Rambo movie to show that in actual fact they won. The US population has trouble distinguishing reality from celluloid fiction.

  2. I believe there was a similar case that went to the Supreme Court. Scalia defended the view that crosses as grave markers are symbols of mourning, not of Christianity. I forget how that case turned out. If a ruling was issued and Scalia was in the minority, this current case should be cleared up pretty quickly.

    • In reply to #9 by Kaiser:

      Along with being a menace to the constitution, the design is a nightmare aesthetically. The folks in Lake Elsinore deserve more than an eyesore and a shabby attempt of sectarian endorsement.

      I usually don’t have strong opinions on aesthetic issues like that but in this case I agree, man is that aweful!

  3. It isn’t just for Christians, there’s a star of David back there as well. Listen, I’m not a big fan of religion, but why impede on the rights of expression for all denominations? This monument was meant to be one of respect and remembrance for brave men and women who gave their lives in the line of duty.

    You guys are looking for something to be outraged about, and that’s nauseating. The monument didn’t deliver a message of hate or oppression, and you’re better off just leaving it alone.

    Religion shouldn’t be oppressed, so long as it isn’t oppressing you.

    • You must realize that government at any level blatantly displaying its preference for particular faiths leads to oppression of those not in the club, right? If this doesn’t outrage you… I’d like to hear what does. In reply to #12 by EMT-Reed:

      It isn’t just for Christians, there’s a star of David back there as well. Listen, I’m not a big fan of religion, but why impede on the rights of expression for all denominations? This monument was meant to be one of respect and remembrance for brave men and women who gave their lives in the line of…

      • In reply to #13 by Kaiser:

        You must realize that government at any level blatantly displaying its preference for particular faiths leads to oppression of those not in the club, right? If this doesn’t outrage you… I’d like to hear what does. In reply to #12 by EMT-Reed:

        No, sir. Oppression of those not in the club is caused by the religiously extreme. The average religious person really doesn’t care about your beliefs. The reason they don’t like you is because you want to make it impossible for them to spread their beliefs. In other words, you’re being oppressive, which is just so refreshingly ironic.

        What outrages me is someone of ANY belief, denomination or creed blocking the expression of someone else. The religious are probably 100% wrong, but it’s within their rights to say what they believe in just as much as you say what you don’t believe.

    • In reply to #12 by EMT-Reed:

      It isn’t just for Christians, there’s a star of David back there as well. Listen, I’m not a big fan of religion, but why impede on the rights of expression for all denominations? This monument was meant to be one of respect and remembrance for brave men and women who gave their lives in the line of…

      From my limited understanding it is distinctly unconstitutional. You guys in the US are lucky to have a secular constitution – it’s worth defending. But I’m just a Brit, so,what do I know?

      As for religion not oppressing people, the only one that I’m aware of that could maybe claim that is Jainism, or of course Pastafarianism.

    • In reply to #12 by EMT-Reed:

      “Religion shouldn’t be oppressed so long as it is not oppressing anyone”

      Boy, you have not been paying much attention to the news, have you? Where do you live, in a bell tower?

      • In reply to #16 by justinesaracen:

        Boy, you have not been paying much attention to the news, have you? Where do you live, in a bell tower?

        Take a deep breath, and keep your insults at bay. They’re not going to get this conversation anywhere.

        I’m certainly not denying religion oppression as a very real thing, that would be truly ridiculous. What I’m merely saying, is that if you feel such hatred for things like striking out evolution in the classroom, just how hypocritical do you have to be to then want to make it so the religious can’t express themselves as well.

  4. Interesting how religious people can make something as ugly as sin – this is just to show that despite Michelangelo and J.S. Bach religion has never had a monopoly on good taste nor on inspiration. In the past they just had the monopoly on the big money to support good artists.

    • In reply to #15 by nailikretsum:

      Interesting how religious people can make something as ugly as sin

      Yeah – what are the objects semi-circling the monument supposed to be, sub-woofers??


      Lest we forget, the First Nations lost their southern California homes to Europeans. Years from now, this fight over the monument’s perceived message will be moot; ebb and flow, shift and change.

      • In reply to #23 by bluebird:

        In reply to #15 by nailikretsum:

        Interesting how religious people can make something as ugly as sin

        Yeah – what are the objects semi-circling the monument supposed to be, sub-woofers??

        Just a guess, but I think the ‘sub-woofers’ must be plinths bearing names of war casualties from the area, as in similar memorials everywhere.

  5. From a European/UK perspective I struggle to get worked up about (arguably) religious monuments being put up on public land. Public land belongs to religious people as well as atheists and secularists. There’s room for both types of monuments (like the new “atheist monument” in Florida). Countless European monuments over many centuries have some kind of religious motifs, including thousands of war memorials. And I can be an atheist and still pay my respects to people who gave their lives securing my freedom to be an atheist.

    It’s just an image of a bloody cross, for god’s sake! If you’re really an atheist, it mean absolutely nothing, one way or the other.

    Are there no more important battles to fight?

  6. Steve, you probably are missing the importance of fighting these types of cases given that you are based in the UK.

    I see it as a bit like the moderates who give the extremists a foundation on which to build their bigotry.

    Sure, there are plenty of people who are apathetic to these types of monuments as it doesn’t directly affect them. However, efforts like these are building blocks to insert religious doctrine more and more into public life and influence of the government.

    Much better to bite the head off the Hydra that let it flourish.

    • In reply to #18 by The Truth, the light:

      America would need to rewrite its Constitution first.

      Really, you’ve pretty much got it right. As a secularist, I oppose undue privilege being given to any religion. Here in Britain we have an established church, bishops in the legislature as of right, and religions running about a third of our publicly funded schools. Oh and our head of state is head of the church.

      But also as a secularist I defend anyone’s right to believe any old nonsense he pleases as long as he does no harm, and I defend the rights of religions to lobby – on an equal footing to any other citizen or organisation – because religions are a part of our society too, and they should not be denied a voice.

      Which is why I defend say the BBC – which belongs to and is funded by all of us in the UK – having an element, a “quota”, of religious broadcasting. Because religious people are included in “all of us” too.

      If this monument is to be banned, so too should the recent “atheist monument”. There should be no monuments!

      I am reminded of George Bernard Shaw: “They call me the master of irony, but even I would not have imagined a Statue of Liberty in New York”.

      • In reply to #19 by Stevehill:

        In reply to #18 by The Truth, the light:

        America would need to rewrite its Constitution first.

        Really, you’ve pretty much got it right. As a secularist, I oppose undue privilege being given to any religion. Here in Britain we have an established church, bishops in the legislature as of right, an…

        It’s all about meaning. UK and Ireland are littered with historic religious monuments, they are beautiful and ancient and part of the history and identity and physical fabric of the countries. Even modern ones with a cross in them don’t provoke much controversy, although that is gradually changing. In the US it’s different, religions are strident and assertive and intent on controlling the apparatus of state and other people’s moral lives.

        A bit like when I cross the Irish border into the North. The Union flag, under which I was raised, instead of being a symbol of the nation flying peacefully over the town hall, suddenly appears everywhere, even painted on kerbstones and waived by skinheads. It is no longer means National pride and identity, but it becomes a symbol of inter-communal strife, arrogance and domination of one community by another.

          • In reply to #22 by Stevehill:

            In reply to #20 by Kevin Murrell:

            I still don’t get it.

            Do the American Humanist Association not see even the slightest irony in litigating to prevent a monument to “freedom”?

            Don’t know much about the AHA, or their grasp of irony…but I suspect that like many Americans they find anything beyond the straightforward, direct statement of the simplistically obvious, difficult to come to terms with. However, by all accounts, the battle lines between differing beliefs and non-belief, are much more clearly drawn in the States than in the wicked and decadent Old World.

            I don’t know what you mean by freedom, but I’m very happy that I’m not allowed to carry a weapon at whim, shoot black people when I feel like it, die for want of money to pay for medical attention or force my undoubtedly warped opinions down other people’s throats. I’m also very happy that as a working class kid my country provided me with an excellent tertiary education and is currently providing my children with one.

            Dr Johnson said that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” I think that he was wrong, religion is the last refuge of a scoundrel, and covering proselytizing, militarism and imperialism in a cloak of patriotic piety, is the Grand Slam of chicanery.

          • In reply to #24 by Kevin Murrell:

            I don’t disagree. I would look at a monument like this as a bit of tawdry kitsch trash, the sort of thing somebody who never got past third grade in school might dream up. It really looks gross, and vomit-inducing. With a “message” so blindingly obvious it doesn’t need saying at all. (Why not “apple pie tastes nice”?)

            But I’d have no problem (beyond possible cost issues to the taxpayer) if any UK local authority wanted to do this on public land.

            And I presume, in America, nobody would or could object to this on private property, whether in front of a church or in someone’s front yard. Which, frankly, would seem to be the logical solution in this case rather than buy a lot of lawyers more shiny new cars.

          • In reply to #25 by Stevehill:

            In reply to #24 by Kevin Murrell:

            I don’t disagree. I would look at a monument like this as a bit of tawdry kitsch trash, the sort of thing somebody who never got past third grade in school might dream up. It really looks gross, and vomit-inducing. With a “message” so blindingly obvious it doesn…

            I agree with you, especially about the aesthetics of the obelisk. It is the plastic arts equivalent of country music.

  7. I agree that the design aesthetic is pretty mediocre, but had another thought. It is clear in the photo that grave markers of other faiths have been included. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has approved emblems for headstones and markers including everything from Atheism to Zoroastrianism. Could the creators of the memorial have designed it in such a way that the graves could have been depicted and not run afoul of the religious symbolism ruling? What sort of iconography for death and the fallen is as recognizable as the makeshift cross, so much so that it would be understood as a marker for a final resting place of a pet buried in the backyard? Do people of other religious persuasions bury their pets under symbols they might bury human beings of that same faith? Is it fair to depict a cemetery bereft of what the prevailing cross-section of adherents (at the time of their demise) might be? As an atheist, I resent the intrusion religionists make in trying to get government to sanction and validate their worldview, but this one seems borderline and that dropping to one knee is not always synonymous with “praying.” While this marker seems an attempt to slip the camel’s nose under the tent as far as religious iconography goes, it is unclear if scrubbing it of all religious symbols is what is necessarily required.
    I also agree with those who recognize that dying for imperialist conquest is not necessarily the same thing as making the ultimate sacrifice to maintain freedom in the US, or the country being invaded…but that is the general nature of the war memorial. It is meant to provide comfort to those left behind that their loved ones did not die in vain, and to salve the consciences of those who sent them to their deaths based on lies and sophistry.

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