Friday, October 09, 2009

What planet does he live on?

A couple of days ago, the Supreme Court heard arguments on a huge cross that stands on federal land in the Mojave Desert. Most of the justices seem to have concentrated on the somewhat abstruse question of an attempt to transfer the land on which the cross is located in order to avoid the effect of a court decision declaring the monument to violate the First Amendment. But not Antonin Scalia. He went right after the question of whether putting up a religious symbol on federal property violates the Constitution's ban on establishing religion. When a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Foundation suggested that Jewish veterans would not wish to be honored by a cross, the Oracle of the Right observed, "The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of the dead."

Huh? Or, perhaps, "Duh, uh." Or even, as we used to say in my family, "What does that have to do with the price of hog bristle in Ethiopia?"

Yes, Mr. Justice, the cross is the most common symbol in cemeteries in the United States. Most Americans are at least nominally Christian. That was true when the First Amendment was written; indeed, it was more true then, when there were far fewer Jews and virtually no Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Confucianists, Baha'is or other adherents of minority religions than there are today. But that did not stop the Founding Fathers from stating that the federal government shall not establish religion. What part of that did you miss, Mr. Justice?

No comments: