Claiming the Bladensburg Cross doesn’t promote religion “flies in the face of reason”


February 28, 2019

On February 27, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of American Legion et al. v. American Humanist Association et. al., also known as the Bladensburg Cross case. (See our amicus brief here.) That day, Nick Little, the Center for Inquiry’s Vice President and Legal Counsel, stood on the steps of the court to deliver the following remarks, which were featured on NBC News

But before his prepared statement, Nick reflected on his own family’s connection to the First World War. Watch the video, and Nick’s remarks as prepared are below. See also remarks from CFI’s Jason Lemieux.

What are we doing here?

How did we get here?

Really, what the hell is going on?

It’s a no-brainer. It’s on public land. It’s maintained at public expense. It’s 40’ tall. And it case you weren’t aware, it’s a cross.

Claiming this cross doesn’t signify religion, doesn’t send a clear message of government support for Christianity, flies in the face of reason.

Come on.

If it wasn’t religious, if the cross wasn’t the pre-eminent symbol of Christianity, then why the uproar? Why the claims on Fox News that Christianity is under attack?

That’s what the Religious Right has been doing. It’s one big con job. They are trying to lie to our faces about what we can see plain and clear.

They say “In God We Trust” on our school walls, patrol cars, and money isn’t religious. And then attack anyone who questions its presence as anti-Christian.

They say requiring witnesses in Congress to swear an oath including “so help me God” isn’t religious, though accuse anyone leaving it out of sacrilege.

And they say a giant cross isn’t about spreading religion, it’s about honoring fallen veterans. But then they claim any challenge is motivated by a hatred of God.

What they want is clear. They want a Christian nation. They want to take their religion and place it supreme, putting it into everyone’s life in every way possible. And they want the taxpayer, regardless of that citizen’s faith or lack of faith, to pay for it.

It matters not to the religious right that this country is made up of believers in thousands of different faiths and believers in none. They don’t care that throughout our history, atheists, Jewish people, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and many others have fought and bled and died in our military alongside Christians. To them, it is more important to place their own religious symbol in public than it is to commemorate the diversity that this country was founded on.

There has to be a line somewhere. There has to be a point at which this effort to excuse blatant government promotion of religion becomes so obvious that the courts stand up and say, “No more.”

If that line isn’t a giant cross on public property, maintained at public expense, then what is it? Where will the courts say, “enough is enough?”

The nation’s founders were clear. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” It’s right there. It’s the first right guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. They knew all too well the dangers of government favoritism towards religion, and they strove to ensure that their new, fledgling country could avoid the mistakes that had plunged Europe time and time again into bloody war.

But the religious right aren’t satisfied with the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom. Instead they demand the right to impose their religion on others, and to do it funded by the public purse.

It’s time to draw that line in the sand, and to stop them.

Honor the Constitution. Honor our veterans. Honor them all.

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at centerforinquiry.org.