In Bladensburg, Md. stands a 40-foot concrete cross erected in 1925 to honor forty-nine local men who died in World War I. This fact may seem unremarkable except for the fact that it stands on public ground beside a highway. The American Humanist Association has sued to have the cross removed on that grounds that it constitutes the establishment of a state religion, as expressly forbidden by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Wednesday, which may have wide-ranging implications for the separation of church and state, an area of jurisprudence currently in disarray.
This case fits a pattern of hostility that has been evident since the days of the Warren Court. Since the 1950s, various groups in our society have undertaken a campaign to de-Christianize the United States, starting with prayer in public schools. Now it has progressed to a point where hundreds of Christian-themed monuments may have to be replaced lest any nonbelievers be exposed to the sight of a cross, nativity, or ten commandments.
Let’s get something straight. This debate is purely concerning the role of Christianity in America. If the monument were in the shape of a Star of David, no one would dare say a word. It is predictable how the Supreme Court’s three Jewish justices will rule. The battle over statues, such as Confederate generals, is a battle over who is an American and what we stand for. When a corrupt or authoritarian regime is overthrown in a third world country, one of the first things to happen is the monuments of the old leaders are defaced or demolished. If the Bladensburg cross is removed, or even transferred to private hands, it won’t be the end of it. All public symbols of the historic American nation, including Washington and Jefferson, will eventually come under assault by the new majority.
If this question were put before a national referendum today, there is no doubt that the religious symbols would be allowed to stand. The debate roiling over immigration and the Mexican border is just another manifestation of this existential conflict. Diversity has given us these disputes, and all indications are that they will only intensify.