The cross has long been a symbol of sacrifice. In America, it has become synonymous with a symbol of honor and respect for the valiant men and women who have given their lives for a grateful nation.
Yet, that symbol of honor has come under attack across America. A small but vocal subset of atheists have such a visceral reaction to the cross that they rush to federal court every chance they get to tear one down.
The memory and honor of the brave men and women these crosses commemorate become mere collateral damage in their unrelenting assault on the cross.
Recently, one of these angry atheist groups filed a lawsuit to have a nearly 90-year-old World War I memorial torn down, because it was a cross.
Never mind the fact that in 1925 when the Bladensburg Cross or “Peace Cross” was erected, it honored 49 hometown heroes in Prince George’s County in Washington’s Maryland suburbs who gave their lives for a grateful nation.
Today, the angry atheists who now claim “unwelcome contact” with the cross say it “shocked” and “upset” them, and are demanding it come down. A memorial that for nearly a century has honored the brave military members who have given their lives for our freedom is now threatened to be dishonored.
This same atheist group, the American Humanist Association, has, for the time being, obtained a court order to block construction of a war memorial inside of a city-owned baseball stadium in California, because the planned memorial includes a soldier kneeling before a cross.
Never mind that in cemeteries and at monuments throughout America, brave members of our military kneel in front of crosses each and every day in remembrance of their fallen comrades.
In that same city, one member of the American Humanist Association has also engaged in a crusade to rid the roadsides of crosses marking where loved ones have died.
One grieving mother can’t understand why someone would try to take down the small roadside memorial she placed to remember her son. “It’s still not fair,” she said. “There’s no reason why the cross had to come down. The cross is up here for [my son] Anthony.”
In the more famous case of the Ground Zero Cross — two intersecting steel beams found in the rubble of the World Trade Center after Sept. 11, 2001 — another perpetually angry atheist group, the American Atheists, argued before a federal appeals court last week that the cross cannot be included in the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum because it offends them.
In fact, they actually argue that the mere “existence” of the cross has caused them physical pain, headaches and mental anguish. We represent more than 230,000 Americans in that case and have filed an amicus brief with the appeals court defending this display.
These angry atheist groups have no respect for those who have experienced true pain and mental anguish. Nothing stands in their way, not the memory of the fallen, not grieving loved ones.
If it is a cross, it offends them and, therefore, must come down. It is a pervasive, unrelenting obsession with rooting out every vestige of religion from American life. They conflate their feelings with the Constitution.
The reality is that the Constitution, despite their self-righteous claims, does not support their view.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the Constitution’s “goal of avoiding governmental endorsement does not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm.”
It even recently recognized the historical context and important place that crosses have in America, stating: “A Latin cross is not merely a reaffirmation of Christian beliefs. It is a symbol often used to honor and respect those whose heroic acts, noble contributions and patient striving help secure an honored place in history for this nation and its people.”
The Constitution is not an atheist manifesto. Despite constant agitation, the cross will continue to stand to honor the fallen, for those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
A small but vocal band of agitators should not be allowed to dishonor the heroes who have fought and died for our freedom.
At the American Center for Law and Justice, we’re fighting back, and the American people are standing with us. We are filing amicus briefs in a number of these cases, and more than 40,000 people have signed our petition to defend the cross and honor our heroes.
It’s time we remember to honor those for whom the cross stands.
Jordan Sekulow is executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, where Matthew Clark is a lawyer.