Last week a “humanist” group filed a lawsuit in Prince George’s County, Md., demanding the removal from public land of a 40-foot cross memorializing the 49 local soldiers who gave their lives in the First World War. Across the country in Lake Elsinore, Calif., a judge ruled against a proposed monument that would have depicted a soldier kneeling before a small cross marking the grave of a fallen comrade (something soldiers actually do, by the way).
In the same town, a mother recently removed a roadside cross honoring her son — killed in an accident — after secularists raised objections even to a small roadside memorial. Heartbreaking video of the mother removing the cross here.
Of course these are not the only cross cases. In fact, just last week the Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on the American Atheists’ attempt to remove the famed Ground Zero Cross from a museum exhibit, claiming that its inclusion in the September 11 Museum and Memorial violated the Constitution. What’s next? Lawsuits against religious-themed paintings in public art galleries?
All of my adult life I’ve heard Christians mocked as too sensitive, how we just need to turn the channel or look away when confronted with even the most vile blasphemies. While I disagree that Christians are any more sensitive than other communities (in fact, I think we have thicker skins than most), it is correct that the response to bad speech isn’t censorship but to either ignore the bad speech or answer with a better argument. I have zero desire to censor speech I don’t like, even public speech I don’t like. Unless a government official or action is directly violating my rights (and I don’t have a right not be offended), my response to his or her bad actions is to use my own voice to protest and my own voice to advocate that fellow citizens vote them out of office. That’s constitutional democracy in action.
Unless, of course, you’re an offended atheist. Then, the same pop culture that mocks Christian sensibilities will treat seriously your utterly vile outrage at a mourning mother’s expression of love for her fallen son. Then, that means the same federal courts that have consistently held that outrage alone does not constitute a recognizable injury will grant “offended observers” special status to challenge displays of perceived religious symbols on public land. In other words, an atheist’s subjective discomfort is sufficient grounds for a federal lawsuit.
This is a travesty. And it’s a symbol of the reality that our culture is steadily abandoning the idea of the law as a neutral arbiter and instead fully embracing the idea that the law exists for the purpose of making sure that just the right sort of people win their cases.
And in 2014, the right sort of person is an angry atheist. Let the Christian mothers weep. Their tears are meaningless.
David French is a Senior Counsel for the ACLJ. A Kentucky native, David is a 1994 graduate (cum laude) of Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a 1991 graduate (summa cum laude, valedictorian) of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee. David has been a commercial litigation partner for a large law firm, taught at Cornell Law School, served as president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and currently serves as a Senior Counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice. He is the author of multiple books, including A Season for Justice: Defending the Rights of the Christian Home, Church, and School and the upcoming Home and Away: The Story of Family in a Time of War.
Used with the permission of the American Center for Law and Justice.