Does anyone find it ironic that the very people who protest so loudly over supposed affronts to Islamic religious expression are often so hostile to the slightest Christian religious expressions – even incidental expressions?
The left is going bonkers over opposition to the Ground Zero mosque in the name of religious freedom, but the left’s assault on Christian liberties proceeds unabated. One very recent example is the ruling by a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that memorial crosses erected and displayed along Utah public roads to honor fallen state highway troopers must be removed as unconstitutional.
In case you are wondering how highway crosses could remotely be considered to have violated any constitutional provision, the court tells us: “We hold that these memorials have the impermissible effect of conveying to the reasonable observer the message that the state prefers or otherwise endorses a certain religion.”
So here we go again. Our politically correct-intoxicated culture is so allergic to expressions and symbols of Christianity that our courts leap to absurd conclusions to cordon off the chief allergen: Christianity.
To fully appreciate the outrageousness of the court’s decision, you must understand that the memorial crosses were placed along Utah public roads by a private – not public – organization, the Utah Highway Patrol Association, which also maintains the crosses.
The egregious constitutional infraction here is not that the government put up the signs, which it didn’t, but that the memorials were placed along public roads. Thus, “reasonable” passing motorists – as opposed, I guess, to those afflicted with anti-Christian road rage – might well assume that the government is endorsing the Christian religion. Horror of horrors. My gosh, what would the largely Christian founders think?
Since the court is invoking the reasonable-man standard, let me just challenge its fundamental assertion right off the bat. I don’t think it’s a reasonable inference at all that the government is making a religious statement by permitting the placement of these memorials along the public highway. On the other hand, I think the government would be (and is) making a statement against Christianity by denying this group access because of its paranoia about going into Christian-spawned anaphylactic shock.
Let’s go through the constitutional analysis briefly again. The First Amendment includes two religion clauses: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion (the establishment clause), or prohibiting the free exercise thereof (the free exercise clause).” These so-called church-state separation cases usually involve the establishment clause, which has been so expanded by the courts over the years as to be nearly unrecognizable in some cases.
According to many courts, the state doesn’t have to establish a national church to run afoul of the establishment clause. It only has to be deemed to have endorsed (or even slightly favored) a particular religion – as you can see from the court’s language above. This is absurd, but it’s nevertheless the position many courts are taking.
Our judiciary has become so obsessed with preventing any hint of a nod toward Christianity (it doesn’t exhibit similar concerns about favoritism toward other religions or faith-based secular themes) that it has thwarted the driving purpose of the establishment clause.
You see, the ultimate purpose of the establishment clause, just as it was with the free exercise clause, was to promote religious liberty. The framers knew that if there were a national church, there would be substantially less religious liberty. But under the ludicrously expansive interpretations of this clause, the courts are diminishing religious liberty in the name of protecting it.
If, for example, a high-school administration forbids a valedictorian from referring to her faith in Christ during her valedictory address under the convoluted reasoning that a single student’s voluntarily expressing her faith somehow constitutes an endorsement by the school administration – and thus the state – it is prohibiting her freedom of religious expression and her free exercise rights. But given the dominance of secular forces in our culture, such concerns don’t even occur to the courts.
It would be ridiculous enough for a court to hold that a permissive display on a public road of a cross erected and maintained by a private group with the express purpose of proselytizing constituted an impermissible state endorsement of the Christian religion. But it’s insultingly offensive for this court to hold that such a permissive display of a cross whose primary purpose is to honor the fallen – not to endorse Christianity – is unconstitutional.
And don’t tell me the court is erring on the side of caution here. No, its ruling is affirmatively hurting people and violating their real rights in the name of rights that don’t exist, and it’s shameful and unacceptable.