THE BLOG
03/04/2014 07:15 pm ET Updated May 04, 2014

Secularizing Public Crosses With Two Cuts

There's an uptick in legal cases challenging public displays of Christian crosses these days. It's because nontheist-rights groups and other civil liberties groups are finally getting the resources they need to challenge these longstanding affronts to the separation of church and state. Think of the AHA v. Lake Elsinore win; the FFRF v. Town of Whiteville win; American Atheist v. Duncan; the pending case from King, N.C., being handled by Americans United for Separation of Church and State; and the case that was just filed against the 40-foot cross in Bladensburg, Md.

Defending lawsuits, in addition to taking these law-violating monuments down or finding a private institution for them, and possibly building replacement monuments, all seems a considerable waste of time and money for local communities. So I have a recommendation to make. If you are on a city council and preside over a public space with a Christian cross on it, save your community money and address it today before you are sued. Instead of taking it down and building expensive new ones, hire a carpenter or a mason to come correct the problem. Yes, I'm suggesting we cut down the arms of the cross and make it into proud column, or consider other even more useful alternatives.

Oh, does that sound offensive? Is this anti-Christian? Not at all. For the moment I'm simply taking religious-right leaders at their word.

Those who defend the existence of crosses on public land emphatically state that they are not religious symbols. Kathy Davis, one of the people organizing to save the Bladensburg cross, appeared to agree with this sentiment when she stated, "It was not put up there as a religious symbol. It was put up there as a memorial to our veterans who died." Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin concured, claiming that "this monument transcends religion." Even the notoriously conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, a Catholic, thinks that these cross monuments aren't religious, stating, "I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead. The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of the dead.... 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."

So why not secularize these cross monuments with two cuts? While a column may fit the bill for some communities, some tall non-memorial crosses could become great sporting areas that people of all faiths and of no faith could enjoy. Instead of having to drive by an explicitly religious symbol on public land on the way home from work, people could test out their climbing skills on crosses that have been converted into rock-climbing walls. Or a platform could be added to the top of these structures so that people could bungee-jump off of them.

And while these monuments will no longer be religious symbols, those who believe in one or more gods might even say a prayer or two before jumping off. For those communities that aren't interested in sports, crosses could be converted into really big sundials that help us all tell the time. If conservative Christians are saying these monuments aren't their sacred symbol, then I don't see how they can simultaneously protest our improving them.

But seriously, does anyone really believe that Christian-right legal teams are being sincere in their claim that the cross is secular? It's time the courts and the general public stop taking these obviously false claims that crosses are somehow secular as honest. The cross, with its well-recognized proportions, is a symbol of the divinity of Jesus that is known worldwide, and any judge who takes the side of these liars is making a mockery of their court.

Monuments constructed to serve as memorials for veterans and causalities of wars are serious matters deserving of attention. As long as exclusionary, public cross memorials stand unaltered, they continue to exclude those soldiers of other faiths or no faith who served our nation in times of need. Disrespecting our patriotic service members like this is wrong, and it's time for it to change.

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