By Michael F. Haverluck
Atheists and their compatriots are putting a bull’s-eye on another cross memorial, this time attacking the idea of replacing a fixture at the U.S. Marine base in Camp Pendleton, Calif., that was erected to honor soldiers killed in Iraq.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State is the latest organization to join the opposition to the repairs at the site where a 13-foot cross was put up in 2003 to honor fallen troops.
The atheist group wrote a letter to the military base commander demanding that the cross be taken down because it’s too “divisive.” It was after several Marines put up a 13-foot cross on a hill in Camp Pendleton on Veteran’s Day, the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers demanded that it be taken down, alleging that its placement was unconstitutional.
That’s even though the cross that was put up was only a replacement for the original.
The Marines who placed it there stated that it was intended to honor four fellow soldiers who were killed in Iraq and to show respect to all military personnel serving abroad. The cross was erected to replace a cross â€’ that burned down on the base in a brushfire in 2007 â€’ which was originally put up by the four honored fallen troops back in 2003.
“We wanted them all to know that they’ll always be in our hearts, that they’ll never be forgotten,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Rettenberger about the replacement cross erected to commemorate the fallen soldiers. “All great warriors.”
The American Center for Law and Justice contends that atheists have no legal basis for challenging the military’s right to honor servicemen through the symbol of the cross, which it says is “used as a widespread and universal symbol of remembrance.”
“The Constitution does not prohibit honoring fallen troops through the use of a historic symbol merely because that symbol also carries religious significance,” ACLJ announced in a statement, emphasizing that it does not violate the Establishment Clause. “In fact, the Constitution forbids excluding religion from every aspect of public life, precisely the goal of the MAAF and other atheist groups.”
ACLJ also notes that the cross was not being used as an evangelistic tool.
“Given the memorial’s history and context, it is clear that it is not intended to proselytize for any faith,” ACLJ stated in a letter recently sent to the commanding officer at Camp Pendleton. “It is meant to honor and commemorate the sacrifice of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.”
When MAAF President Jason Torpy was contacted by WND for comment on his organization’s attack on the cross, he declined comment and referred to a blog posted on his site.
“We still have continuing exploitation of military service and veterans to promote Christian privilege,” the blog reads. MAAF alleges that the cross’s placement on Veterans’ Day, “sends a message of exclusion rather than inclusion on this secular holiday.”
With MAAF, AUSCS and the Freedom From Religion Foundation putting pressure on the U.S. Marines to take down the cross without a lawsuit, ACLJ contends that they have a great deal of confidence that the military will buckle under their pressure.
“They are setting a new precedent,” ACLJ Director of International Operations Jordan Sekulow asserts. “They are saying, ‘We don’t have to go to court; we’ll just complain.’ And the military’s so PC at this point that they’ll build an $80,000 pagan worship center for witches to come in and have séances and cast spells for three pagan students at the Air Force Academy, but they will pull down every cross they can, whether it’s in a base in Afghanistan or Camp Pendleton or a Jesus statue that’s been up in Montana in the mountains since World War II.”
Sekulow challenges officials in the U.S. armed forces to stand up for the rights of Christians, who make up 90 percent of servicemen, and stop catering to the demands of an isolated few who claim to feel offended or excluded at the sight of a cross.
“We’re paying for this military, and frankly, if my military is going to be using tax dollars to build pagan worship centers, the least they can be doing for us is defending wooden crosses put up as an honor of sacrifice and symbolism,” he contends.
Yet Master Sgt. Kathleen Johnson, the vice president and military director of American Atheists, argues that the issue is more about “equality.”
“It’s not attacking Christianity to make military religious space that’s supposed to be usable by soldiers of all faiths neutral,” Johnson told Fox News. “Every service member has to be comfortable to be able to hold services in that space.”
Jordan Sekulow countered Johnson by noting that different religions on military sites have their own places of worship.
He commented on the Jay Sekulow Live daily radio program that he believes atheists will continue having their way waging concerted attacks before Christian holidays â€’ unless Americans stand up.
“They want to do it all right around Christmas season,” Jordan Sekulow said. “They got the cross down in Afghanistan right before Thanksgiving. They are sending a message to evangelicals. We better respond now.”
To defend the Camp Pendleton cross and make sure that more military cross memorials aren’t swept away by the tide of political correctness and anti-Christian atheist groups, ACLJ has started a petition for Americans to sign in support.
“This year’s chosen anti-Christian theme seems to be directed specifically at cross displays in the military or any vestige of Christian faith associated with honoring those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” ACLJ states.
Critics of Christianity also have targeted private roadside crosses used as memorials for fallen law enforcement officers in Utah as well as the famous Mt. Soledad Memorial cross in California and a remote memorial cross in the wilds of the Mojave desert.