General Douglas MacArthur noted that “old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” But sometimes before they fade away, they just get angry. Sometimes they might even see red, white, and blue.
A Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) group erected a memorial cross in a remote part of the Mojave Desert in 1934 to honor the dead of all wars. But one person (with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU]) filed a lawsuit claiming that he was “offended” by the memorial cross and now one offended man may trump the wishes of millions of veterans.
Religious symbols have graced many monuments for decades, but now may become a thing of the past. The military has used it as an example of courage, sacrifice and honor. Our nation’s highest military award is the “Distinguished Service Cross” and Arlington National Cemetery has many memorial crosses.
If the U. S. Supreme Court agrees with the ACLU, veterans must surrender to the thin sensitivity of one person who managed to be offended by a small memorial in the middle of the desert.
This case is a disturbing pattern, such as lawsuits by the ACLU and want-to-be groups to remove “In God We Trust” from our currency, to stop the Pledge of Allegiance, and to eventually bring about the destruction of thousands of similar memorials nationwide.
The ACLU theory is that no religious symbol can ever be allowed on public land, based on the misconception of the constitution that somehow government must be hostile to religion.
Although our constitution may prohibit favoring one religion over the other, it does not compel hostility to faith. Legislative sessions begin with a prayer, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was “known but to God.” “The Star Spangled Banner,” Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and dozens and dozens of famous monuments in Washington D.C., and thousands throughout the United States mention God.
The U.S. Supreme Court (1984) has observed that “our history is replete with official references to the value and invocation of Divine guidance.”
Our constitution was written to “secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” but according to the ACLU, such war memorials may not reflect respect or gratitude due our honored dead.
Why create a constitutional crisis by displaying an eight-foot cross? The ACLU tries to search out Establishment Clause violations, often in the form of a passive religious symbol or display of some sort – and turn it into a federal case.
Even if old soldiers do “fade away,” their memories should not. (Dee Wampler is an attorney and member, Second Baptist Church, Springfield.)