Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Crossing Justice Scalia

Justice Antonin Scalia thinks it’s an “outrageous conclusion” that a six-and-a-half-foot-high cross only honors the “Christian war dead.” I think it’s an outrageous conclusion that Scalia doesn’t get the exclusionary symbolism of a cross.

To back up: The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in what is, at least to me, a difficult case about the constitutionality of a cross erected by the Veterans of Foreign Wars to honor those killed in World War I. This would not be a problem except for the fact that the land the cross is on has been federal property. (It was federal property and then was transferred to the VFW in an attempt to get around a federal court order holding that the cross violated the Establishment Clause separating church and state.)

Reasonable people, I think, can differ about whether, given this long history, the cross, well, crosses the line of separation between church and state. Reasonable people cannot, I think, differ about whether the cross -- a Christian cross -- can be interpreted as honoring all the war dead.

Scalia is not a reasonable person.

“It’s erected as a war memorial,” he told American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Peter Eliasberg, who was challenging the cross. “I assume it’s erected in honor of all the war dead....The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of the dead....What would you have them erect? A cross -- some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and, you know, a Moslem half moon and star?”

Really, what else could they erect to honor the war dead if not a cross? Crosses are fine -- for Christians, and for Christian graves. I’m not a veteran, but I am Jewish, and I cannot believe that Jewish war veterans would feel honored by a cross. In fact, I expect they would feel rather deeply dishonored. The cross conveys the notion that the soldiers died in service of a Christian nation. That is a big deal -- Scalia’s mockery notwithstanding.

By Ruth Marcus  | October 8, 2009; 1:15 PM ET
Categories:  Marcus  | Tags:  Ruth Marcus  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Sheila Johnson's Macaca Moment
Next: Still No Spine on Gitmo


Arlington National Cemetery is filled with crosses.

Tens of thousands of crosses.

Is Arlington National Cemetery unconstitutional?

Posted by: DagnyT | October 8, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

If a Christian Cross is on the grave of a person who is not a Christian, without permission, then, yes, it would be unconstitutional.

Posted by: capemh | October 8, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Arlington National Cemetery is filled with crosses.

Tens of thousands of crosses.

Is Arlington National Cemetery unconstitutional?
Arlington Cemetery is also filled with Stars of David, and now marks the graves of US servicemen and women who were Muslin with the Half Moon and Crescent.

The crosses in Arlington mark individual graves, not a memorial to all as this other cross is supposed to be.

If there is to be a memorial to all then it should not be associated with one specific religion.

Posted by: alysheba_3 | October 8, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Respectfully, while I seldom find myself in agreement with Justice Scalia, this time I think he's right. The cross in American Society in 2009 is effectively secularized. Red crosses, blue crosses, iron crosses and flaming crosses certainly no more conjure up thoughts of Christianity than the swastika conjures up thoughts of Hinduism. An unadorned bone white cross suggests grave marker. The remarkable irony here is that the Court's most ardently Catholic jurist is the one to call attention to the ubiquitous desecration (to use the word in its original meaning) of Christianity's principal symbol.

Posted by: chuckgoodwin | October 8, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

the cross is no more exclusionary than most of american history.

should we get ride of civil war reenactments because they are symbol of a time when some americans held slaves?

of course not.

it would be equally perposterous to scrubb all signs of our country's historical and cultural roots. this cross is not a new thing planted there recently, its been there for oever 40 years.

this "wall of seperation" thing, words which you wont find ANYWHERE in the constitution, has gottenly grotesquely out of hand. if people feel "excluded" because of a cross that has been on federal land since before they were born then maybe they should go start their own country somewhere else, or just plain grow up and stop seeking out the most infintesimal harms.

Posted by: dummypants | October 8, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

chuck: if you think for one minute that those who erect crosses think its a religion-neutral secular honor the dead symbol, you are completely wrong. I can see an argument that some crosses erected long ago in some locations have acquired a secular significance that may even predominate, perhaps, but Scalia is dead wrong, and knowingly or not, is displaying religious bigotry. by the way, those other crosses have different shapes for a reason

Posted by: JoeT1 | October 8, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Arlington Cemetery also has Stars of David and Muslim Crescents. That's what makes it Constitutional.

Posted by: thomthom | October 8, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Please take a bill out of your pocket (one dollar, five dollars, ten dollars, whatever). Find "IN GOD WE TRUST".

Which God is that? Obviously, it's not Jews' YHVH; nor Muslims' Allah. It's the Christians God.

Conclusion: all bills are unconstitutional.

Thank you Ruth. You have saved the world.

Posted by: tropicalfolk | October 8, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

It's interesting that Justice Scalia, a conservative Catholic, would not recognize the specifically Christian nature of a cross.

Posted by: jaltman1 | October 8, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Which then begs the question, Tropic: Is God great enough for all of us? Are there not different approaches to knowing God? Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals all have different apporaches. It is after all the God of Abraham that the Muslims, Jews and Christians also worship.

Posted by: ebtnut | October 8, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

@JoeT...Well, some 20+ years ago when I and my fellow anti-apartheid protesters planted 100+ cross in front of the student union, we didn't mean to convince anyone of our religious ardor (of which many of us had none) but rather to memorialize the murder of South African civilians by their government. So, no, I don't think everyone putting up a cross is intending a religious message.

Posted by: chuckgoodwin | October 8, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

"Scalia is not a reasonable person."

And is WOEFULLY unqualified to be a Supreme Court Justice.

Posted by: CardFan | October 8, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I am Jewish. I would be deeply offended if a cross were erected to mark my grave.

If you are Christian, think how you would feel if a Moslem Crescent was placed on your grave to honor you. Would you feel honored?

Posted by: Richard43 | October 8, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

It is time for this ideologue to retire; he has done enough damage to this country.

Posted by: kevin1231 | October 8, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse


I don't know. I'm an atheist.

Posted by: tropicalfolk | October 8, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Marcus,

How many Jews were crucified by the Romans???

Posted by: larrygubas | October 8, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

This should fall under the category of historic archaeological site. Leave religion out of it. It may not warrant protections under the many laws governing archaeological sites, but it is historic! Shall we remove prehistoric rock art because it embodies a tribal religion? Of course not, that would be insane! Just as this case has become! Where does the California State Historic Preservation Office stand on the issue and why isn't that a part of this story!!!

Posted by: nicki_darnell | October 8, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

>>>Scalia is not a reasonable person.

Ruth Marcus apparently thinks that using ad hominem attacks strengthens her case.

Ruth, this isn't about Jewish people being offended by a cross. This is about the secularization of America and the repression of religion. There is no "separation of Church and State" in the constitution. This case is the work of secularists trying to curtail the expression of religious beliefs in this country.

It is a slippery slope. Once it has become accepted to remove religious symbols from public land, it will become accepted to forbid the display of religious symbols on private property, as atheist and other secularists will be equally offended by "religion" whether it is on private or public property. Once that has been accepted, the free expression of religion will be attacked.

Don't think it can happen here? Pick up a history book. It has happened over and over again throughout history in every time and in most cultures.

What makes the US so different from all of them? The Constitution? We no longer abide by that document as written or intended. The courts now decide laws for us, such as Roe V. Wade, which legalized murder simply because it is a "Private Act". When we get away from the literal interpretation of the Constitution, we enter the realm of relativism, where any hair-brained theory is given as much importance as the next.

Christianity may be the target du jour, but it won't be long before your freedom to be Jewish will also be attacked by these same secularists.

Posted by: jmj1459 | October 8, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

The 1st Amendment was not written or ratified to impose strict secularism on government. It was motivated by states with established churches and which feared a federal established church superseding them. States continued to have established churches after ratification, perfectly constitutionally, as intended.

As for the federal government, the men who wrote and ratified the 1st had a very narrow definition of what an establishment of religion meant. It meant one denomination being the formal, legally defined, official denomination of the government and the people and region it governs, like the Anglicans in England, the Lutherans in Sweden, the Reformed Church in Holland, the Orthodox in Russia and the Catholic Church in Bavaria.

But they had no problem with the federal government in all three branches having and doing things like official chaplains, religious holidays, prayers, proclamations of prayer fasting and thanksgiving, etc. These things were not secularized through routine, the government was brand new - they were explicitly religious and often Christian or even Protestant. But the men who wrote and ratified the 1st never sued, never objected to such things ON CONSTITUTIONAL GROUNDS.

Telling the men who wrote and ratified the First Amendment that having a war memorial cross on public land violates that amendment would have the treat you like you were insane. The amendment would NEVER HAVE BEEN RATIFIED if that had been what it was known to mean.

Who's going to claim that they know better what the 1st means than the men who wrote and ratified it?

Posted by: LStarr3 | October 8, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Did any legislature pass a law to erect the cross? I doubt it. Communities should be able to decide to have religious symbols displayed on public property they control as long as the public has a mechanism to remove them as easily.

"Rule of the thinnest skin" has to go.

Posted by: msully25 | October 8, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I don't think that there is any doubt that a cross like this is a symbol of Christianity. In general, I think that new war memorials on public land should be of a religion-neutral basis. They can still be highly effective - think of the Vietnam War Memorial, the recent Korean War Memorial etc.

However, it was erected in 1928 as a war memorial and wasn't meant to be mean-spirited at the time, such as representing the Ku Klux Klan for example. As a result, I don't have a problem with leaving it up where it is.

Posted by: raydh | October 8, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

The attitude of people like Justice Scalia documents quite vigorously the need for the emblem of one particular religion to be replaced by a non-sectarian marker commemorating those Americans of every faith and of no faith who fought and died to preserve the rights of Americans of every faith and of no faith -- to worship (or not) as they saw fit.

Non-sectarian war memorials are to be found all over the United States.

The fact that people hold Easter services using this cross as a focus point sort-of pretty obviously indicates that it is considered a religious symbol and by no means secular. And people who cannot see the difference between religious symbols marking the individual graves of soldiers who adhered to the faiths that the symbols go with and religious symbols that are used on government facilities are either fairly obtuse or intentionally dishonest.

Posted by: edallan | October 8, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

antonin "opus dei" scalia has no regard for the constitution. He has even les rgard for citizens of the United States. he thinks that he is the only one to ever open a history book, and therefore he is the only one who can deicide what the "original intent" of the Framers was in any given instance. Of course his history is as flawed as his judicial reasoning, which is no surprise since the tries unsuccessfully to mesh the two. He is a prime example of the damage a president can do gor a generation after leaving office. The two fanaticall stooges bush poxed our nation with with be vexing us for years to come barring some unforseen act of God to remove their loathsome faces from the bench.

Posted by: John1263 | October 8, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

As an atheist, I am aware of other peoples' symbols, but I don't feel insulted by them.

It's ok to have "IN GOD WE TRUST" in our dollar bills. It doesn't offend me at all. It's ok to have crosses, stars and the like... if that's what makes people happy.

Those who feel insulted by crosses belong in the same category as those who found offense in Mohammed cartoons: fanatics.

Posted by: tropicalfolk | October 8, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

If you think the authors of the Constitution intended no wall of separation, then why did they use the phrase themselves when speaking of the 1st Amendment? the amendments are in "shorthand" and are predicated on cultural assumptions -- they presumed that any idiot reading those words would get the basic meaning. Irony is that it was, until recent years, CHURCHES that fought most stringently to maintain that wall of separation written in the 1st Amendment and understood as such throughout our history. they knew that when you put your religion into govenment, then government gets itself into your religion. A bad deal for both. Our customs and practices have changed as the nation has become more diverse, and more inclusive, but arguing there is not a wall of separation is exactly the kind of flawed history that scalia relies on. He knows that most of you do not know enough and have not read enough to know he is lying to you.

Posted by: John1263 | October 8, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

i take issue with the writer's comment that jews would feel 'dishorored' by a cross. i am a jew and as i certainly expect to have a star of david on my tombstone, the cross at issue, with the information i have read, does not offend me in any way and i find it rather presumptious of the writer to decide how others would feel. also, in my humble opinion, we don't to feed the whackos with what sounds to me as disdain for yeshua ben-yosef or jesus as he is better known. this kind of talk gives the impression that all jews don't like jesus. i happen to be a fan of the man.

Posted by: bruce30 | October 8, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse


Is your use of "Opus Dei" supposed to cast Scalia in a bad light? I guess that means you have been reading Dan Brown's fiction in order to obtain your "facts" and prejudices.

Posted by: jmj1459 | October 8, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Don't understand issue. Government sells land to VFW. VFW can use land how they say fit

Posted by: pmalloyzag | October 8, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

chuck: point taken, and granted. I have no doubt that you and your friends didn't intend to impart a christian message in your acts, but in general, that would be a natural assumption. the cross is not by any means a faith neutral symbol of honor for the dead in general, and for Scalia to pretend it is is simply wrong. that he doesn't get that making the cross secular strips it of its religious significance and would represent an insult to christians is remarkable. if he does get it and is using the secularization argument as cover, then he's dishonest and insulting.

Posted by: JoeT1 | October 8, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

larrygubas posted:

"Ms. Marcus,

How many Jews were crucified by the Romans???"

I know of at least one.

Posted by: m8bmclaugh | October 8, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

There are other ways to look at the Cross than as a partisan symbol. Jesus was a man who gave up his life for a cause he believed in, just as our soldiers do in battle. It is no wonder that many men and women view the Cross as a symbol of self-sacrifice - one "crosses" the ideological boundaries of different religions.

Every religion has some basis in the value of self-sacrifice. Those who were directly affected by the loss of these men's lives chose this particular symbol to express their hope that the sacrifice was not in vain. As such it should stand.

This doesn't preclude others from establishing their own symbols of hope in the face of loss. Our society should make room for them - without rewriting history by taking away what was clearly a free expression of speech through religious symbolism. Our public lands should not be stripped of our history, even if it was made at the exclusion of others. However, we should grow, to give voice to people of similar hope, but with different symbols expressing that hope.

Posted by: bigfoot104 | October 8, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

pmalloyzag: government sold land to VFW so that the cross would stay, and so that they wouldn't have to allow jewish and muslim symbols to be erected as requested (which would have probably averted the constitutional problem). so the government acted deliberately to prefer the symbol of one religion over another, digging itself the constitutional hole.

Posted by: JoeT1 | October 8, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

When is says "IN GOD WE TRUST" on our dollar bills. That's not a problem. I don't care what it says, as long as it's legal tender and good when I buy stuff. Maybe it should say "In Cash We Trust". Actually, that's closer to the truth. Like the old saying goes... In God we trust, everyone else pays cash.

Posted by: tgolamb | October 8, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Although the cross is typically symbolic of Christianity, it was also generally a Roman form of execution for many different nationalities of countries they conquered. Additionally, crosses are now fashion statements, not necessarily illustrating one's faith or beliefs. A plain cross without Jesus on it has become a universal symbol of peace, love and tranquility. Crosses and other iconic symbols are not being taken so literally as in yesteryears.

Posted by: beverlywilliams | October 8, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure the guys who put the thing up simply wanted to offend Jews.

For God's sake, stop whining and put up your own memorial.

I'm Jewish too.

Posted by: larryj3 | October 8, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

John1263, the phrase "wall of separation" was used by Jefferson (and just him, not the actual authors and ratifiers o the 1st amendment) in his over-quoted letter to the Danbury Baptists to describe a public policy he thought desirable, and something that the 1st Amendment's establishment clause was a step towards and inspiration in the direction of, but was NOT an assertion that the establishment clause put up a "wall of separation".

There's a big difference between saying that you support a particular political position, and saying that you believe the Constitution forces the government to adopt that position with no choice to do otherwise.

As for cultural assumptions, again, it NEVER OCCURRED to the Founding Fathers that the 1st amendment banned war memorial crosses on public land; they would have thought that, in your words, "obvious" to "any idiot".

Posted by: LStarr3 | October 8, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Justice Scalia has one talent - he reasons well from a false premise.

Posted by: djah | October 8, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

I am a Christian, but I see no reason the cross should be able to stay on this site. Ms. Marcus is correct: Justice Scalia's comment not only flies in the face of common sense, but is a tawdry attempt to evade the constitutional issue at the heart of this case.

The same is true of the legislative shortcut allowing the VFW to buy the land in the first place, by the way: the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. Upholding that principle is not an attack on religion, but a means to keep the sacred and secular separate and intact.

Posted by: DCSteve1 | October 8, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

When that cross was orinally put up we didn't have the ACLU and it wasn't part of a nation monument. So all that's required is a little sign next to it describing who put it up and why and that it's being left there to preserve the history of the land from the time the feds took it over.

Posted by: FLvet | October 8, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I too am catholic bvut i also do not see the cross as representing just one religion.It is and has been for the most part a universal symbol as far as all religions go.I think that it is an exellent idea for this memorial to be erected no matter what anyone say's

Posted by: charles0390 | October 8, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I think it would be a pretty big stretch to say that Jewish veterans would feel "deeply dishonored" by a cross for a war memorial.

whoever brought up "In God We Trust" on currency,
Allah is arabic for "the God". Christians and Jews in Saudi Arabia call God "Allah. All of them worship the same God, since they all drive a much of their belief system from Moses and Abraham.

Posted by: theCentrist | October 8, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

To Dagny T: The crosses in Arlington National Cemetary are on individual graves and are selected by the individual families. Families are not obligated to accept a cross. The indivdual graves of soldiers of Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths, or no organized religion, are not adorned with a cross. There is no overall cross signifying a memorial to all the dead vererans in Arlington--such a symbol would be unconstituional. I think the outcome is the cross will stay, but people of other faiths will be allowed to erect symbols on the land that memorialize dead soldiers of the other faiths as well.

Posted by: carreirar | October 8, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Replying to:

"John1263, the phrase "wall of separation" was used by Jefferson (and just him, not the actual authors and ratifiers o the 1st amendment) in his over-quoted letter to the Danbury Baptists to describe a public policy he thought desirable, and something that the 1st Amendment's establishment clause was a step towards and inspiration in the direction of, but was NOT an assertion that the establishment clause put up a "wall of separation".

There's a big difference between saying that you support a particular political position, and saying that you believe the Constitution forces the government to adopt that position with no choice to do otherwise.

As for cultural assumptions, again, it NEVER OCCURRED to the Founding Fathers that the 1st amendment banned war memorial crosses on public land; they would have thought that, in your words, "obvious" to "any idiot".

Posted by: LStarr3"

LStarr, to follow your reasoning (such as it is), then there was no need for constitutional amendments to end slavery, give women the right to vote, etc. After all, the founding fathers COULD have conferred those rights 220 years ago--so the fact they didn't do so must mean that we shouldn't, either.

I happen to be a property-owning white male, who would have been able to vote in 1789--but I still prefer living in the society that 220 years of constitutional and political evolution has produced. I guess the same is not true for you?

Posted by: DCSteve1 | October 8, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I used to think that arguments either for against this sort of silliness were a waste of space, but more and more I am coming to the conclusion that it is the people doing the arguing that are the waste.

Posted by: Geezer4 | October 8, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Also, to those who continue to claim the cross isn't uniquely christian and the god in 'god we trust' is not uniquely the christian-judeo god, you should have no problem with us tearing down the cross and putting up a statue of buddha in its place (that's certainly not uniquely buddhist), and switching our money to 'in gods we trust' to signify all the gods, or in buddha we trust, etc., since none of these are unique to those particular religions.

Posted by: carreirar | October 8, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

In this officially Christian country we often use, though often don't, the cross symbol on war memorials, even though Jews, Muslims and Hindus have long been present in our armed forces. The cross tells us that the society is traditionally Christian and that the society chose to honour all its dead in Christian terms. They had after all thought fit to defend with their lives a society with a Christian character. And I'm not sure that a statement of honour or benediction in the terms of one religion is essentially insulting to those of another religion, or of none. It might seem churlish if I were offered some benediction in Jewish, Muslim or Hindu terms to throw it right back in the faces of those who offered it.

Posted by: MHughes976 | October 8, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

If the cross could be changed to a Star of David without public uproar, then Scalia's comment could be presumed true. But we all know what would happen if the cross were removed and the Jewish star put as a replacement. And that's why the cross has to come down.

Posted by: Keesvan | October 8, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Of course, a cross represents a Christian ... it is after all the symbol of Christianity. Scalia is an idiot in many ways and if not he is a bully and a man incapable of seeing anything but his way as the right way. We can pray his obvious unhealthy life stle will catch up with him soon. I would not be honored by a cross at all in a tribute to myself or as a symbol at my grave; I am not Christian. If the VFW wants to erect something to honor the dead from all our wars, what was wrong with a statue of a generic soldier, weary and battle scarred? That would be an honor for all the war dead. A cross is the symbol of Christ, the "founder" of Christianity, the messiah come to earth. Other religions do not accept this man and this symbol as a symbol of either their religion or their faith.

Posted by: littleoldlady | October 8, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse


"How many Jews were crucified by the Romans???"

Jesus, for one.

Posted by: Iowan11 | October 8, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

We need more diversity and less prohibition. The dead veterans should be honored for what they were--soldiers who gave their lives for their country and individuals who had the right to freedom of expression and religion. I'd like to see a cross and a dozen other religious symbols on top of that hill and everyone of those graves symbolizing the land of the truly free in honor of the brave.

Posted by: bassmaan | October 8, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Scalia should be impeached for that statement. His Christian bias skews his judicial duties.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | October 8, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

The only people I know who think that the cross has become a universal symbol are Christians. It's not up to them to determine what everyone else believes.

Posted by: Jakey3 | October 8, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Typical American, Christian narrow minded egocentric perspective -the cross represents all religions! Wow. What a retarded and ignorant statement. That is true if and only if you are willing to replace it with the Muslim or Hindu or Jewish or Buddhist symbol.If not, then for God's sake, get a clue! Your view does not represent ALL! The arrogance in some of these posts is staggering.

Posted by: pbh4935 | October 8, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

I divide this into two parts. What did a cross, which was not an individual grave marker, mean to the WW I veterans who put it up in a time which is now remote from us? Did Jewish leaders at the time object to this as much as they do today?

Part Two is what it means to the people who are fighting for it now. They have said things which indicate they view it as a sign of the sovereignty of Jesus. There are huge problems with that now whatever was intended when it was put up.

Posted by: DaveM62 | October 8, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Yes all of the crosses you see thru out th US were erected as part of a Christian plot to dissrespect all non-Christians.

Posted by: g30rg3544 | October 8, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Some claim we are a "Christian Nation" and claim the founders wanted it that way.

Not so. Take look at the last half of the last sentence of Article VI of the Constitution:

"... no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

If the founders intended us to be a Christian nation, they would not have included that specific prohibition of a religious test for an elected or appointed member of the government.

When we combine Article VI and the First Amendment, we have a strong argument that our founders knew that mixing religion and government tends to spoil both.

As a Christian, I thank God that we are not a "Christian Nation" for if we were, whose brand of Christianity would control? Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist ... ?

Posted by: ReasonableGuy | October 8, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

"It's interesting that Justice Scalia, a conservative Catholic, would not recognize the specifically Christian nature of a cross.

Posted by: jaltman1 | October 8, 2009 2:11 PM"

Wow, the Golden Age of Hypocrisy! I've never seen it so bad.

The Cross is probably the most important symbol of Christianity and did you hear all those pious Poops denying the Cross when it suits their purposes?

Monte Haun

Posted by: mchaun | October 8, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Try shutting up, lady!

Posted by: catotheelder1 | October 8, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Pronouncing to the world your state of offense is what liberals do. Liberal Christians, liberal Jews, liberal Muslims. Liberals are equal-opportunity whiners. To announce "I am offended" has actually worked very well for them over the decades. At least since the '60s. So this is what they do and how they organize their politics and their donors and their activists. And this is what the mainstream media believe is the highest calling: To have the opportunity to write a piece like this, loudly announcing your state of bereavement.

This Supreme Court case is such a dismal waste of time. Ruth Marcus: Congrats on your offense. I am sure it will guarantee you plenty of access to big parties around town. You preening, annoying bag of wind.

Posted by: Craig_Colgan | October 8, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Anyone ever think, "who cares about this stuff anyways?" If folks want to put a cross up on a cemetery, no big deal. Let them put up a six pointed star and a crescent as well.
Hard to believe this made it to the US Supreme Court. The cost of that is, some say, upwards of $50,000 these days.

Posted by: Martial | October 8, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

"I’m not a veteran, but I am Jewish, and I cannot believe that Jewish war veterans would feel honored by a cross."
Perhaps you will feel more honored when the next time your people are being exterminated no army of Christian soldiers comes to rescue you.

Posted by: JD15 | October 8, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Oh please, Craig. I could just as much support an argument that Christian right wingers are whiners. You can't say "Happy Holidays" to some people, or write "xmas," without getting an earful about how you are disrespecting them (I live in the South). Or, "Waaahhhhh, I have to do my job as a pharmacist even though I don't like what my customers want to buy!" And, please, watch some of that town hall footage from the summer for some prime examples of righteous indignation. I don't think any group in America is free of whiners, but as for myself I'm more sympathetic to people who whine to be included than those people who whine at losing the right to exclude others. Results may differ, but, then, you are basically whining about liberals being whiners, aren't you? And now I'm whining about you!

Posted by: benjaminanderson | October 8, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Sorry JD15, but I think you omit three important points from your assertion that Jews are generically indebted to Christians for ending the Holocaust:

1) it was actually an army of official atheists (the Soviet Red Army) that did the most to defeat Nazi Germany (inflicting something like 80% of German casualties if I recall correctly).

2) German soldiers were as individually Christian as American soldiers, likely more so.

3) The allies didn't fight WWII to save the Jews, still less the homosexuals and Gypsies. It's a fairly painful subject.

My thoughts, for what they're worth.

Posted by: benjaminanderson | October 8, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

This demonstrates the need for justices with empathy.
This is insanely ethnocentric.

Posted by: edismae | October 8, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

It is an "outrageous conclusion that Scalia doesn’t get the exclusionary symbolism of a cross." I do not think he and a lot of others want to get it.

For the life of our secular Republic, we will have to be vigilant against those that want to blur the line between church and state.

It is conceivable with birthrates being what they are, at some point, there may be more Muslims in our Country than Christians. I wonder how Christians would feel about separation of church and state then.

Would it not be easier to deal with Israel, Palestine, Iran, Pakistan, India, etc. if there was a bold line between religion and government? ~ richard allbritton, Miami,

Posted by: rigel1 | October 8, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

I think Scalia is correct that there is a distinction between choosing one common symbol to honor war dead and picking markers for individual graves. Using crosses to mark soldiers who died in Iraq is a modern practice which does not seem to be viewed as paying homage to Jesus.

Posted by: DaveM62 | October 8, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

There were hundreds of thousands of Christian crosses over American soldiers, three centuries worth, before the likes of Marcus
came arrived

but we must forget all that and let the neocon/zionist/Jews scuttle our history;rewrite it to suit themselves.

And let's discuss how many stars of David we'll need for the fallen heros in the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war. Shall we?

Marcus' last contribution was to scream because some Jewish candidate for a Deputy position in administration was being held up.

She didn't notice the hundreds of others candidates being held up.

IT isn't unusual, unfortuately, but it's getting a little old.

Posted by: whistling | October 8, 2009 7:21 PM | Report abuse

I was so glad to see this column. Scalia was speaking honestly about his preconceptions. He genuinely thinks that a cross is a universal symbol of reverence for the dead, not solely the Christian dead, so much so that it would be an "outrage" even to question his prejudices on this. And he's completely, totally wrong.

This comment was good evidence of the value of a diverse court where the Justices' inevitable preconceptions aren't all the same, and different Justices bring different perspectives. It's also why we have a multiperson Supreme Court instead of one judge. Nobody is immune from mental blind spots, even someone as smart as Justice Scalia.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | October 8, 2009 7:29 PM | Report abuse

"genuinely thinks that a cross is a universal symbol of reverence for the dead"

It is certainly used that way even today.

There are also crosses awarded for bravery.

"Southern Cross of Honor "Iron Cross" grave marker at the grave of Judah P. Benjamin in Paris, France."

Posted by: DaveM62 | October 8, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

What else of America's past are we to rip up to suit Jewish columnists like Marcus?

And Krauthammer, Cohen, Kristol, etc etc etc. in the post.

Perhaps grab the crosses from the Revolutionary
War dead?

Maybe like groups like Haddassah going around
screaming and sueing about eveyrthing in American textbooms that they don't like,
true or not.

Let us redo hour history, let us use our blood and treasure, let us support ISrael and her
constant wars, let us not be us. We must be bullied and ruined, or will we have had enough soon, as in history.

Posted by: whistling | October 8, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse

the ACLU shud use this on scalia:

1. the organized christian religions in this country and others are capitalist, free enterprise entities which are tax exempt in the USA.

2. No federal government property shud be used to advertise a private free enterprise organization.

Posted by: surlydoc | October 8, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Ruth Marcus...Scalia and others supporting theocracy are doing a disservice to our nation's proud history of religious freedom in arguing all Americans must conform to the right's fantasy...that we are a Christian Nation.
Theocracies have never been friendly to religious freedom, talk about small-government conservatives, yikes.

Posted by: Civilius | October 8, 2009 8:47 PM | Report abuse

jmj1459 writes: "Once it has become accepted to remove religious symbols from public land, it will become accepted to forbid the display of religious symbols on private property, as atheist and other secularists will be equally offended by "religion" whether it is on private or public property. Once that has been accepted, the free expression of religion will be attacked. " Ah, the slippery slope argument.

Can you truly not see the difference between a religious symbol on public, tax-payer owned and funded land, and private property owned by a denomination or congregation? Allowing a religious symbol on taxpayer owned land, and denying the right of other religious representatives to erect symbols of their religions on the same land, is essentially government sponsorship of a specific religion, barred by the First Amendment.

Aside from a few really foolish authors, there is no "attack" on Christianity. There is, by the ACLU and others, strong resistance to the notion that the United States is a Christian nation or that Christianity has or should have a favored position in the United States. Speaking as a life-long, regular and frequent church attending Christian, I support the work of the ACLU in keeping government and religion separate. Another slippery slope possibility is that government approval of a particular faith can lead to government interference with or control of that faith, which I am sure the founders had in mind when they drafted the First Amendment.

It is interesting to note that by almost all surveys, regular participation in religious activity and personal identification with a faith is significantly stronger in the United States - with no official support of a specific religion - that in almost every democratic nation that does have a state sponsored faith or denomination. There appears to be something about government protected freedom of (and from) religion that encourages people to be more religious.

Posted by: vklip1 | October 8, 2009 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Scalia has said publicly that he prefers the mores and morals of the age of the Divine Right of Kings, when presumably everyone knew their place. At that time, their place was to honor the cross or shut up. It's heartwarming to know we have a Justice who identifies not with the side that produced the Declaration of Independence, but with the side from which it was declaring independence.

Posted by: chaszzzzz | October 8, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

"Scalia is not a reasonable person."

Ruth Marcus is a dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb lady. Antonin Scalia could be asleep and run intellectual circles around your crap.

Affirmative action at its worst. And that's saying something.

Posted by: HookInMouth | October 8, 2009 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Scalia's idyllic view of America is one that is all Christian, all conservative, and all white of course.

Posted by: vztownes | October 8, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Scalia's idyllic view of America is one that is all Christian, all conservative, and all white of course.

Posted by: vztownes


And you don't have a clue as to what you're talking about.

Posted by: HookInMouth | October 8, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse

How about a Coke can with some pubic hairs stuck to it placed on top of one of the crossbars of the cross?

Posted by: pyee | October 8, 2009 10:19 PM | Report abuse

I thought this thing went to court because the Parks Service told the Buddhists that they could not erect their own monument. The cross was okay, but the Buddhists were not, therefore...lawsuit city.

Posted by: jollyroger1 | October 8, 2009 11:01 PM | Report abuse

Some Buddhists asked for permission to put up their memorial in the same spot and were refused. Then when the courts rightly decreed that this religious symbol did not belong on national forest land, Congress played games in order to protect their preferred religion. Scalia is dancing to the same tune as Congress. We should be proud that our country was set up so everyone can practice the religion of their choice in their home and in their place of worship. Putting up the religious symbol of one religion in a national forest and playing games to protect it goes against this freedom of religion we cherish and the spirit of 'no establishment'.

Posted by: jerry_k | October 8, 2009 11:28 PM | Report abuse

What happened to tolerance? An open mind should accept and even respect any religious symbol, period.

Posted by: grooves12 | October 9, 2009 1:24 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, Ruth Marcus!!

Hope you do not get too much hatemail, now...

Posted by: KorneliaKoronetz | October 9, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse


Why not have a not-religious symbol, one for all mankind? Guernica from Picasso as an example? -- There are atheists in the world, you know. And they care for people, too.

Posted by: KorneliaKoronetz | October 9, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

I'm a life long atheist. Intellectually, I'd like to not be offended by public displays of religion. Intellectually, I'd like to agree that an "open" mind is accepting of all such symbolism. The problem with that theory is that all too often, the symbols we're talking about are those of intolerant, judgmental tribes.

You can't only view that which is palatable in a religion and wholly disregard the brutality of its history or its fundamentalism.

Though I might question their judgment, I'd never want to stop anyone from joining a faith, supporting a faith or wearing or displaying the symbols, relics or clothing of that faith in the privacy of their own homes, holy places or faith based community centers. To do so would be tantamount to thought control. I do, however, reserve the right to insist that separation of church and state be enforced at every level. That is the only fair - and legal - way of honoring our Constitution and our once respected history as a cultural "melting pot."

What would be wrong with removing the cross and honoring those war dead with a different symbol?

Posted by: nlynnc | October 9, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

The issue at stake is the Establishment Clause and Free exercise. The Congress may not make any laws establishing an official religion or prohibiting the free exercise of one. There was a recent case where the Ten Commandments were one of many symbols outside a state house or courthouse (i forgot which one) and because it allowed for other symbols, it was allowed by the Court. Let the Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, whatever put up their own monument, and there is no issue. Or take down the cross. I don't recall any religious symbolism at the WWII memorial, Vietnam Memorial or Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC

Posted by: Noodles3 | October 9, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Behind all of the legal wrangling and discussions about Freedom of Religion and Freedom from Religion lies the struggle of American traditionalists to maintain the original identity and culture of this country--a country which is rapidly being overwhelmed by new peoples with different ethnic and religious backgrounds and, most importantly, with increasing political influence.

Posted by: Watersville | October 9, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse


Don't believe me? What about conscience protections? Just this week, an amendment to the Baucus Bill proposed by Sen. Hatch was voted down. This amendment simply would have guaranteed the rights of health care workers to refuse to perform abortions if they have moral objections to the procedure. How is that not a restriction on religious liberties? Secularism has an unquenchable thirst for the removal of religion from society.

This issue is not about the government establishing religion. It is about secularists attacking religious symbols by claiming to be offended by them.

Posted by: jmj1459 | October 9, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

"Ms. Marcus,
How many Jews were crucified by the Romans???"

This previous posting reveals a woeful lack of knowledge concerning the Romans routine use of crucufixion to impose the death penalty. Rome crucified hundreds of Spartacus' followers after crush his slave rebellion, who now knows how many dead were left on crosses lining the Appian Way. When the movie Spartacus was made, the Roman Catholic church at first tried to get Universal not to show scenes of executed slaves on crosses lining a road.

As to that cross in the desert, let it stay. The Veterans of Foreign Wars may notice a dropoff in VFW applications from non-Christian veterans thanks to the cross and this Supreme Court case. A small price to pay to be able to challenge the Establishment Clause.

Posted by: Faustus | October 9, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Whistler asks how many Jews have died with U.S. forces in Iraq. Assuming that he asks sincerely, rather than as a malicious rhetorical question, the answer is more than many non-Jews or non-service members might think. Five seconds of Googling brought me this, about a dead Jewish soldier whose background may be of interest. It shows that Jews in America do not always conform to stereotypes.

Sgt. Elijah Tai Wah Wong, 42, of Mesa, Arizona was killed Feb. 9, 2004 in Sinjar, Iraq when he and other soldiers were trying to move a cache of unexploded rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds, which had been seized from enemy forces. The cache blew up, killing Wong and another soldier. Wong was with the 363rd Explosive Ordnance Company, Army National Guard, based in Casa Grande, Ariz.

As reported by the Chicago Tribune: "He himself was a composite of widely different cultures, a living example of the United States' hodgepodge of infused immigrant experiences, religions and races. His Chinese father, Wong Ning Nam, who was born in 1908, came to the U.S. by ship from Hong Kong. He landed in San Francisco without a suitcase and settled eventually in New York, where he married a Jewish woman, Wong's mother, Olga. 'My father came to this country with the shirt on his back," said Wong's sister, Helga. 'In the course of one generation, he has five children who are college-educated and own their own homes, as well as some of them owning their own businesses.'"

Wong was born and raised in New York, but moved to Israel as a teenager. He went to an Israeli high school and became a soldier in the Israeli army. He enlisted in the Air Force after returning to the States. Wong also served in the NY Air National Guard and the Air Forces Reserves before enlisting in the Arizona National Guard. He worked as a probation officer for Maricopa County, Arizona and was the married father of three minor children.

Helga Wong told the Tribune, "He was probably the most amazing person I have ever met. He really cared about everyone and everybody." She told the Arizona Republic this his work for the probation department was "Part of his plan to save the world. He tried to help the former inmates under his supervision work their way back into society. He believed in his country, with all its pros and cons.... I cannot imagine how many countless lives were saved by the (explosives) he had processed already."

Ironically, Helga Wong, a New York ballet dancer, saw one of the planes slam into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 from the window of her mother's downtown apartment.

Posted by: oldjeff | October 9, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I grew up in the Catskills, affectionately (or not) known as the Hebrew Himalayas, where the tension between Jews, Italians and colonial descendants was palpable - in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. So the tone of Ruth Marcus' "Crossing Justice Scalia" sounded vaguely familiar. But this is almost 2010, and we are talking about an artifact of WWI, a time when our nation was not all that diversified, and "Christian" for the most part, meant what our Founding Fathers were, "Protestant." While as an attorney who has done a fair amount of appellate work, I am not a fan of Justice Scalia's "originalism" theory, this is one case where a variation of it might appropriately apply. The sign of the cross is a sign of those times, and to impose our current political correctness as representative commemoration would be inauthentic. In addition, to use the guise of a column on multiculturalism to spew personal ethnocentrism goes beyond "Post Partisan." So in the spirit of Columbus Day, let's honor the past for what it was, as we all hopefully sail less biased and prejudiced into the future.

Posted by: butterfly042506 | October 10, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company