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August 27, 2006
Dissenting views on public crosses
Although I've enjoyed many of Mr. Jack Kemp's previous articles and agreed with many, his disingenuous arguments the contrary, he is wrong, wrong, wrong about the Jewish War Veterans and the ACLU being silly and stupid protesting about a cross on a public space, Mount Soledad. Yes, there are stupid Jews, but bringing this lawsuit is not proof of their existence.
To answer, these organizations and others have asked for security and they certainly don't believe wars ended with the creation of the UN. But what does that have to do with the matter at hand? His irrelevant questions distract from the core of the case——a symbol of a religion on public land does constitute favoritism for that religion, excluding those who are not of that belief system. The cross does not belong there.
He then inquires about the cross on the English and Swedish flag, the Star of David on the Israeli flag. Again, irrelevant examples. Sir, we're discussing the United States of America not these countries, admirable as they may be. Their religious beliefs are woven into their political system; are an integral part of their history and culture.
The history of the United States is not based on any specific religion; all of us, not just Jews, should be grateful for this acceptance. The precious Constitution of the United States, as backed by many court cases throughout the years, mandates strict separation of religion and state thereby guaranteeing freedom of worship for all——this religious symbol in a public space flagrantly violates that freedom.
His other arguments related to Touro Synagogue and Admiral Levy, while interesting incidents, are also really not relevant to the central issue——a symbol of a specific religion on public land.
In the United States there is freedom to bring lawsuits and frankly, as minor as it appears, the importance of this is large. I am not stupid, nor am I crazy; I, for one, support the Jewish War Veterans and the ACLU in this instance; I also support the right of anyone to erect a cross on private land. So go do that Mr. Kemp.
Ethel Fenig 8 27 06
Update: Jack Kemp responds:
First of all, I want to say that I am arguing for an old monument being left alone. Ethel, I don't believe the US is about to build any new monuments with crosses on them, but this old one was a symbol of the historical national culture at that time.
If the ACLU were to succeed in removing the Mt. Soledad, should they move on to a court case against the Cabrillo National Monument? Where and when will this end? How many old national monuments have to remove their historic crosses before some Jews feel that they are no longer being made into a second class citizen, as one letter I received all but stated. How can your freedom of religion "be guaranteed" if the Cabrillo monument still has a cross? You, Don Quixote, and the ACLU will have to ride the countryside tilting at National Monument crosses. There are specific incidents of anti—semitism in America, as someone emailed me in criticism of my article. I suggest you use your energy fighting those in court.
As to your criticism of my stated examples of England's, Sweden's and Israel's flags, with their majority religion symbols, having no bearing on the issue because they are not the US, I say this. Human nature and primal motivations, although not officially always codified into American law, cannot be legalistically compartmentalized as ending at our national border. Examples from overseas human behavior are relevant to this discussion of the American Experience. I understand people study The Bible, Shakespeare, Dickens and many other foreign works commenting about the human condition — and even NEA teachers order this done in public schools.
Ethel, I'm glad you weren't a lawyer in Israel when I saw my cousin, years ago, with his Israel Defense Forces—issued Old Testament. Imagine how "excluded" and victimized the Druze (a Muslim sect) soldiers in the IDF must feel. Obviously, I meant that sentence sarcastically to make a point, but an old US monument's celebration of a majority faith does not constitute evil done to a minority on the face of it. Frankly, that "exclusion" argument sounds like something I'd read on the Daily Kos board.
I am now going to bring in an argument for the connection between religion and patriotism from yet another country, namely the old Soviet Union in World War II. And I will quote an author I consider an anti—semite, Patrick Buchanan. Buchanan, in turn, is commenting on actions taking during WW II by much greater anti—semite, Joseph Stalin, whose military liberated my parents from the Nazis (with much American arms aid).
In Buchanan's new book about immigration and national identity, State of Emergency, in Chapter 9, on p. 150 he mentions what Stalin did to raise patriotic feelings in World War II. I quote.
Yes, I know, the Soviet Army was very anti—semitic as well. But it was also that way from 1918 until the day before Stalin suspended his suppression of the Orthodox Church in approx. 1940 and rallied the church to support the state.
In wars, such as the current one, you have to pick your priorities. There is a war raging in Iraq. There is an ongoing war in Israel that can arguably be said to date from the 1929 Arab riots to today. Yesterday there were at least seven incidents on airline planes either directly or indirectly related to the War on Terror. I wise general choses their battles by order of priority — if they can. I know, you consider this cross on a hill a larger priority than I do.
The thoughts about what people fight for mentioned in Buchanan's State of Emergency book are echoed in Former Under Sec. of the Navy James Webb's earlier book, Born Fighting, How the Scots—Irish Shaped America. Although the Scots—Irish today represent a smaller percentage of the population than they did in Colonial times, I believe they still represent a significant percentage of the US military. This short review by the American Library Association, quoted in an online review from an online bookseller, is as relevant today as it was in the 1700s.
Ethel, you state in reply to me that,
My UN comments was just for dramatic exposition, but in reply to the other part of your question, what it has to do with the matter of the cross has to do with synagogue security is as follows. My comments weren't about "asking for security," from the local authorities, but pro—actively doing something about it to help themselves, even if it was just as unofficial consultants. It seems to me that a group of veterans might know something about securing an area from jihadi intruders. Maybe they are also doing this, but it seems the joining of a national level multi—year lawsuit would take significant manpower (personpower?) and moneys away from other needs. Would the Jewish War Veterans then feel obliged to join and help pay for a second lawsuit against the Cabrillo National Monument? This is not an idle speculation on my part, but just the logical extention of this project of bitter fruit.
Joseph Crowley adds:
Ethel Fenig is wrong, wrong, wrong!
So—called people of faith that display intolerance towards other religions, secularists, agnostics and atheists should be careful what they wish for. They may revel in their myopic little secular victories to strip America of all public property displays of religion but if they're not careful, they may end up worrying more about the separation of their head and neck than church and state!