An op-ed opinion piece, mistakenly identified as a Sacramento Bee editorial, rehashed misleading statements and made many more about our Mojave cross case, which will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 7. Ramona Ripston, ACLU/SC Executive Director, responds.
Margaret A. Bengs rehashed misleading statements about the law and the American Civil Liberties Union's case concerning a cross in the Mojave National Preserve.
It's the government that has shown contempt for free speech, allowing private citizens onto federal land to erect a cross but preventing other private citizens from erecting a Buddhist memorial on the same site. And the ACLU doesn't argue that a land transfer in this case could never be constitutional - only that the proposed transfer has clearly been manipulated so that the cross will remain in exactly the same place.
Many Christians are offended by Bengs'argument that this particular cross is supposedly a nonreligious commemoration of war dead, rather than a symbol of the divinity of Jesus. And thousands of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and members of other faiths who have served their country with honor do not regard the cross as a "universal symbol." That's one reason the military allows soldiers and their families to choose which religious symbol to put on headstones in military cemeteries - a position the ACLU staunchly supports.
Characterizing the plaintiff in the Mojave case as "hypersensitive" and without standing is likewise misguided. Someone who is directly affected by government favoritism of one religion can and should be able to sue if our constitutional freedom of religion is to mean anything. If the law were as Bengs' article suggests it should be, a Jewish student "offended" by school-sponsored Christian prayers would have no legal recourse.