The national issue about religious icons (read: Christian symbols) on public land has struck very close to home. This link will give some background to the whole affair but there are a few other things of note which perhaps in due time I will speak to. I have strong feelings about such issues and have spoken about other areas. It doesn’t make sense not to chronicle the situation and opine on it on my own blog since I actually live in the vicinity of the offending cross. So here goes.
As the article explains, in a purchase for other purposes, the village of Holmen also acquired a cross positioned prominently on the same property, visible in many directions. Now, after decades of being a non-issue, after it was learned that it was now on public land, a certain Eric Barnes became offended and lodged an unofficial complaint. The village of Holmen plans to resolve the issue the same way that La Crosse (about 15 minutes away) did just a few years back: sell the land to a private entity which would then maintain the cross.
Honestly, I don’t have strong feelings about that cross being there, but I do have strong feelings about a single person having the capacity to make a whole community abide his thin-skinned whims. Skeptics and atheists wonder why they are not taken all too seriously by the Christian community and are offended when Christians don’t exhibit undying patience to atheistic demands. This is a case in point. It is extremely difficult to understand how a cross which was on a hill for decades caused no mental harm but the innocent transfer to public ownership now makes it a traumatic affair. One is left wondering if the cross had offended the individual(s) the whole time but only now can they do something about it.
That leads to the obvious concern that perhaps if they could get away with it they’d force all religious symbols out of public sight, and groups going by the name of ‘Freedom from Religion Foundation’ rather than, ‘Freedom from Religion in Public Venues Foundation’ would seem to suggest that they won’t actually be satisfied unless they have a complete purge.
What is at issue, of course, is the first amendment, the relevant portion of which reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
It says a lot about how bad literacy and interpretation has gotten over the last hundred years that by ‘Congress’ something like ‘Village of Holmen’ could be considered in the same class of things. However, if that bad reading (which in some measure has become the law of the land) applies, it should follow that just as the Congress/Village of Holmen can’t make a law respecting an establishment of religion, nor can it prohibit the free exercise of religion. Thus, a removal of the cross is actually a prohibition of the free exercise of religion.
Atheists (and some writing letters to the editor in local papers) consider the cross as obviously ‘prosyletizing’ and therefore a clear violation of an ‘establishment of religion.’ The notion that a cross on a hill, first on private land for 40 years and then on public land for just a couple of years, is evangelism and an establishment of religion is something that many people find positively absurd. It is not that people (like myself) necessarily feel compelled to defend the display of a cross at all costs, but rather we feel that people with silly and petty sensitivities should not be permitted to have their pet interpretations (eg, cross on hill=establishment of religion) carry the day.
As far as I’m concerned, I will argue that the Village of Holmen should not sell off this piece of land- at least not without a vote from the citizens of Holmen. Put the matter to a vote. If the majority says keep it, and the cross, then let it be a lesson to the minority in how democracies ought to work. If the minority makes compelling arguments and becomes the majority, great! That’s how democracies ought to work. And if it is decided that the cross ought to stay, let the ‘Freedom from Religion Expressed in Public Venue Foundation’ sue yet again.
Let’s handle the matter once and for all so that communities don’t have to continue to be enslaved to the tyranny of the minority. Push it to the Supreme Court and demand that they stop dancing around the matter and really issue some definitive statements on the matter.