As the Supreme Court weighed a dispute over a religious symbol on public land Wednesday, Justice Antonin Scalia was having difficulty understanding how some people might feel excluded by a cross that was put up as a memorial to soldiers killed in World War I.
"It's erected as a war memorial. I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead," Scalia said of the cross that the Veterans of Foreign Wars built 75 years ago atop an outcropping in the Mojave National Preserve. "What would you have them erect?...Some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and you know, a Muslim half moon and star?"
Peter Eliasberg, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer arguing the case, explained that the cross is the predominant symbol of Christianity and commonly used at Christian grave sites, not that the devoutly Catholic Scalia needed to be told that.
"I have been in Jewish cemeteries," Eliasberg continued. "There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew."
There was mild laughter in the packed courtroom, but not from Scalia.
"I don't think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that that cross honors are the Christian war dead. I think that's an outrageous conclusion," Scalia said, clearly irritated by the exchange.
No, here, Justice, allow me to explain it to you very simply: Some people feel so strongly that it does NOT honor their dead that they were willing to sue all the way to the Supreme Court. If it truly represented everybody, then some people wouldn't be suing because they find it so offensive. So rather than continuing, in the face of clearly contrary evidence, to insist that everyone is honored by the symbol of a religion that, for example, considers me evil and damned and, thus, could hardly honor my dead, perhaps you could simply look at the evidence standing right in front of you. The fact that it's not offensive to you is irrelevant.
Oh, and, by the way, that conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and you know, a Muslim half moon and star? Still excludes me. Still offensive. All monotheistic, warmongering, religions. All male deities.
Of course the point of separation of church and state isn't to try and find a religious symbol to put on government land that somehow represents everyone (including atheists). It's to separate government from religion. How about a memorial that is secular, not religious, in nature? Or a secular memorial to peacemakers?
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."