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The Holmen Cross, Kristallnacht, and the Tyranny of the Minority: My Letter to the Editor in the La Crosse Tribune

I wrote a letter to the editor regarding the Holmen cross which sits on public property.  It was published today.  The power of the personal blog gives me the ability to comment further and even respond to other letter writers.  Let’s start with my actual letter.

Beware tyranny of the minority

It is not every day that Holmen has the opportunity to have an impact on the affairs of the entire nation. The decision to sell off the land that the cross on Star Hill stands on in order to avoid controversy is understandable in light of what happened in La Crosse.

However, is Eric Barnes happy with transferring it to private property? No. We might legitimately wonder if the only thing that would satisfy those with his views is a complete purge, public and private. Where would the “Freedom from Religion Foundation” stop? Where would Richard Dawkins, who believes teaching some religious doctrines is child abuse stop?

In light of the gulags, the concentration camps, the re-education camps, etc, the loving thing might be to take a stand. I know that there is an overwhelming urge to “preserve the peace” at all costs. History shows us that this approach could very well lead to our very own Kristallnacht. If it goes that far it is too late.

As citizens, not just as Christians, we should be concerned if a minority can inflict on the majority their own narrow view on what constitutes the ‘establishment of religion.’ If Eric Barnes should like to call for a referendum on the cross, I would support him. Put the matter before the people. Hear the arguments. Have the discussion. Have a vote. That is healthy conflict resolution.

The village should scrap its plan to sell the property. The Supreme Court has yet to issue a clear ruling that balances both the establishment clause with the free exercise clause. We could give them an opportunity to do just. If Holmen doesn’t face this issue communities around the country will continue to be subject to the “tyranny of the minority.”

I suspect that not everyone knows what I meant when I said Kristallnacht, so if you didn’t notice the link I added in the text, here is the Wiki article on it.  The basic concept is simple:  No one wakes up in the morning and says “Hey, I got an idea!  Let’s throw the Jews in a concentration camp and send priests to the gulags for re-education!”  Such decisions follow years of development of thought and circumstances.  History makes it painfully clear that even beliefs can have consequences and if you let those beliefs bear fruit without hindrance, there will be some beliefs that bear bitter fruits, indeed.

Martin Niemöller famously said (with variants):

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I am not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I am not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the incurably sick, and I did not speak out because I am not incurably sick.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I am not a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

The point is that fruit, bitter or sweet, is the result of a long process beginning with seeds planted long ago.  It is easier, far easier, to deal with a tiny plant then the full grown tree with roots spread far and wide.

I firmly believe that the first amendment as written preserves both the religious freedoms of Christians and nonChristians, including atheists.  It builds in free expression right along with restricting establishment.  Take away the free expression, even as it suits your purpose today, and thirty years hence you may very well regret it.  Free expression in the public sphere, mind you.

And just a comment in reaction to Philip Berry who in his letter wrote:

You state that you feel discriminated against by secularists…if by that you mean that “your” religious rhetoric is being removed from public land, then I am sorry. I am sorry that the United States’ constitution doesn’t allow for forcing all taxpayers to pay for something they don’t agree with.

This is pretty absurd.  The only expense involved in the Holmen cross is just the electricity to light it during the week of Easter.  Otherwise, it is lit up as a star.  As for the principle of the thing, Christians who oppose abortion have been having to pay for something they don’t agree with- the funding of Planned Parenthood, the outgrowth of Margaret Sanger’s eugenics philosophy– to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.  Mr. Berry, you are in no position to lecture anyone about being forced to pay for something they don’t agree with.  We pro-lifers have been paying through the nose for something far more offensive then a religious symbol high on a hill.  By our view, we’ve been forced to pay out of our own pockets for the murder of tens of millions of unborn humans.

Send me your address and I’ll mail you the 10 cents that is likely to be your share of the expense of the electric bill for the 1 week when it is a cross and not a star.  Aha, hang on a moment.  You’re from La Crosse, not Holmen.  You’re not being forced to pay for anything!

I certainly agree that it stinks that we have to pay for things we disagree with.  I don’t think the constitution really prohibits that, however.  What we can do is have a vote.  That is the healthy way to handle the matter.

I have also opined on this in this blog entry here.

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