Atheists Object to Camp Pendleton Cross

Update:  FoxNews reports on the “investigation” of the cross.  The ACLJ has written a letter to Camp Pendleton explaining the appropriateness — and Constitutionality — of allowing the cross to remain.  They, too, highlight the Argonne cross in Arlington mentioned below.  In reference to the Utah trooper crosses mentioned below, the Highway Patrol logo has been stripped from the crosses and a disclaimer has been added in a bid to avoid their court-ordered removal.

It didn’t take long:  When Jason Torpy of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers saw the LA Times report on the Camp Pendleton cross, he was quick to call it

a “wonderful gesture” in remembrance of the fallen Marines, but said its location on public land “makes us feel like the federal government privileges Christianity over non-Christians like us, makes us feel like second-class citizens…”

[T]heir desire to erect a large cross to honor their memory is perfectly acceptable, so long as it is on church land or their own property, not on federal land.

Further, Torpy claims the Marines’ cross is an intentional effort to by the government to afford preference to Christianity:

Military service is being exploited to secure unconstitutional Christian privilege…

Torpy is capitalizing on an increasingly popular canard that the mere presence of a religiously-related artifact on government land (or land that used to be the government’s) makes some people “feel” bad, and is therefore unconstitutional.

Camp Pendleton initially defended the Marines’ actions, saying

that the cross had not been approved by base officials.

The statement said those who put up the cross were acting as individuals, not as representatives of the military, and “were not acting in any official position or capacity that may be construed as an endorsement of a specific religious denomination by the Department of Defense or the U.S. Marine Corps.”

Undeterred, Torpy then claimed that even allowing the cross to remain was inappropriate:

Torpy says that by allowing the cross to stand on public land, they are approving of the cross indirectly.

“As long as it’s up, then it’s passed approval,” he said. “If it can be on federal land then it must be okay with the leadership, regardless.”

A Camp Pendleton spokesman seemed to imply the cross might not withstand review:

Maj. Erin H. Mackin…[said] a legal staff is reviewing the situation…it is unclear whether or not the cross will be allowed to stay.

“Camp Pendleton legal authorities are researching and reviewing the issue in order to make a judicious decision,” she wrote. “As Marines, we are proud to honor our fallen brothers…but it is important to follow procedure and use appropriate processes for doing this in an appropriate manner to protect the sentiment from question as well as be good stewards of our taxpayer dollars.”

The implication is the Marines’ didn’t get approval for the memorial that went up some years ago.

Torpy’s constitutional argument is compelling, to someone:

“Would they allow that for anyone else who wanted to put up something for atheists… ?,” he said.

Apparently, Torpy thinks the coins, dog tags, boots, engraved stones, and various other artifacts left on the site were exclusively Christian.  He mustn’t have realized that the memorial liquor might make non-drinkers feel like “second-class citizens.”

In actuality, Torpy appears to be displaying the “me too” entitlement attitude typical of some activist atheists.  It’s largely an effort to have atheism elevated to a religion, or to scrub government of any hint of association with religion — which is not at all what the Constitution requires.

This battle has been fought over the Mount Soledad cross for decades, and more recently over the Mojave cross (which just had a new cross removed, again).  The Supreme Court (which has the Ten Commandments engraved in its wall) recently denied a review of a ruling against the memorial crosses raised by the Utah Highway Patrol Association in honor of fallen troopers.

You know, the Argonne Cross sits on government land, too.  In Arlington National Cemetery.  Think that makes Torpy feel like a second-class citizen, too?