Camp Pendleton Cross Defended, Torpy Ignores Second Cross

A follow-up article to last week’s conflagration over the memorial cross raised by Marines on Camp Pendleton indicates the Marine base had no idea the ruckus that was about to ensue.

Which, of course, they didn’t, because the Marines were acting on their own, not on the part of the Corps or the government.  (Of course, local attorney Randall Halmud said the group was still culpable: “When they erected their cross on that hilltop, they violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution…”)

Public supporters of the cross, many from the Marine base itself, have swarmed news sites with comments.  The people themselves varied from atheist to religious, military to civilian. 

A Facebook site has appeared entitled Keep the Camp Pendleton Cross.  The page highlights some history of the memorial — a site which contains more than the cross.  Notably, the memorial was rebuilt by more than 100 Marines from RCT-1, has been visited by entire units, and was even the subject of a prior Public Affairs news piece.

A few supporters of the memorial seem to have found MAAF Jason Torpy’s website, leaving messages of their discontent.

For the record, no discourse is advanced by advising someone to suck on the end of a shotgun or engage in anatomically impossible sexual acts, as critics did on Torpy’s site.  Regardless of someone’s attack on the honor bestowed by a memorial, such insults are reprehensible.

Likewise, there is no call to assume all who oppose Torpy’s attack on the Marines’ conduct are Christians and “haters,” as some have.  In fact, many self-identified as something other than Christian.

As more information comes out, it seems the memorial has been up there for some years, and it is obvious its intent has not been to advance any particular religion, or even religion at all.  It is on the land of Camp Horno, home to several Marine units.

Besides the cross, the prior discussion noted that Marines have scaled the hill for years and left mementos for their fallen comrades. 

Two of the most common memorial artifacts:  Beer and rocks.  Not exactly your typical unconstitutional Christian-government intrusion.

In fact, rocks are hiked to the top for every fallen Marine. Traditionally, those visiting the memorial drink one beer and leave one for the fallen.

It is entirely possible, and even probable, that the first Marine to climb that hill and remember his fallen friends with a beer did so without any signed approval paperwork.  That does not diminish the solemnity of the spot, nor does it require that it be dismantled.  As noted above, units have marched the hill and held solemn formations at the site.  Marine Colonels spoke highly of their units doing so.

Had it not been for the (positive) LA Times story, it seems Torpy would never have known about the site, even though it has been there for years and has previously been in the news.  (Despite his claims, it appears the original complaint was his, not local Marines.)  In fact, a Marine Colonel said it had become tradition for every unit to climb the hill to the memorial before each deployment.

Contrary to Torpy’s unsupported assertions, the presence of the cross does not make an otherwise permissible site forbidden (or unconstitutional).

In fact, there’s another cross on Camp Pendleton Torpy either doesn’t know about or has declined to complain about.  The land that its on is just as “government” as the Marine memorial, and its even on Christianitos Road.  Yes, a US Marine Base has a road named “little Christians.”  Which means people entering Pendleton have to drive through the “Little Christians” Gate when they enter the US Marine base.

As an official Marine news release notes, the site on Camp Pendleton, marked with a tall white cross, marks the celebrated first baptism took place in California in 1769.  (It was rededicated just this past May.) Two Native American girls were baptized into the Catholic faith.

Think Torpy is bothered by that symbolism on federal land?

As this website and others have pointed out, there are similar crosses serving similar purposes to the Marine memorial in other locations that Torpy has to have known about for years.

Problem is, he knows it would be politically unpalatable to demand the government tear a cross out of the hallowed grounds of Arlington.

It seems Torpy’s politics supersede his principles.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Mike Atchue

10 comments

  • Erecting an exclusive Christian symbol on a military reservation is about as unconstitutional as it gets. Forget who did it, the marine commander is culpable. This display of Christian Supremacy is just one of many recent Dominion Christianity’s excursions into religious hegemony.

    This cross honors no one. If it was meant to honor Christian Marines who gave thier life in service to their country, it missed the mark by a wide margin. A much better honorarium would be to post a sign that reads: It was suggested that a Christian Cross be erected here to honor our Marine dead. But knowing that all Marines are not Christian it was decided to use the Marine emblem instead. The promotion of a particular religion and its symbols by members of the military is strictly forbidden as is promoting religion over non-religion.

    There is no room for religious supremacy in America including the armed forces.

  • A cross erected at Arlington is perfectly legal and acceptable. Religious symbols of all kinds appear at Arlington and if other religions want to enlarge their presence there it is within their pervue to do so within regulation.

  • I am told the cross at Pendleton was meant to commemorate the 1769 baptism of two Native american girls in to the Catholic Faith. This is even a worse reason for erecting this cross than a Marine memorial. The number of coerced conversions in those days was manifold with deadly consequences for refusing.

  • @Richard

    Erecting an exclusive Christian symbol on a military reservation is about as unconstitutional as it gets.

    You’re not going to try to say there’s invisible ink on the back of the US Constitution that prohibits putting crosses on government land, are you? Because there certainly isn’t anything on the front that says that.

    Your second comment contradicts your first. For what its worth, the ACLU seems to agree with you about Arlington; MAAF Jason Torpy does not.

  • @JD

    JD, I’m not sure you are thinking this through. There is no writing on the back of the constitution but there are thousands of words contained in many SCOTUS decisions and rulings which are made a part of the first and other amendments. To fully iunderstand how the court decisions have affected the meaning of the First Amendment, one must study these rulings.

    In one such ruling the US Supreme Court has held that Government officials including the armed forces may not, in the course of their duties, promote, endorse, elevate, prefer or proselytize one religion over another or religion over non-religion. Irrespective of who may have erected it, an excliusive religious symbol featured on a military reservation indicates a religious endorsement of and preference for that religion on the part of government. As a government official allowing such a display, the party responsible for operational command of the installation is in violation of the constitution.

    Arlington is a designated government run burial ground. It contains, however, all sorts of religious symbols on grave markers, tombs and other venues, including the recently hard won right to display religious symbols previously banned by the government such as Pentagrams and Pagan symbols. It is not an exclusive Christian burial site.

    Jason Torpy is free to disagree with me, as you are. I’m sure Jason is as firm in his beliefs as are you and I. In my case, rather than argue the doctrinal reasoning in erecting a symbol of one’s belief I prefer to examine the legal constitutional aspects of such a display.

    Although I am not a lawyer, I can still read and understand legal decisions and rulings. Those affecting government and religion are a thorn in the side of evangelical Christians and moreso to Dominionionist Christians who deem their faith to be superior to all others and should enjoy a favored position in the world.

    So that you may be able to have it handy, I am copying the essence of the Lemon Test Law established in Lemon Vs. Kurzman (1971).

    The court in Lemon v. Kurtzman ruled three requirements for government (here read armed forces) concerning religion, they are :

    1.The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose;

    2.The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion; and

    3.The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion.

    Lemon test states that if any of the requirements are violated by government, the action is deemed to be unconstitutional under the Establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

    Despite the importance of religion to many Americans it must be remembered that the free practgice of religion irrespective of its majority, does not enable favoritism from government.

  • It is also incumbent on military officers in a position to supervise others that they become familiar and conversant with constitutional provision, both that which is contained in the original document and that which has been made a part thereof by Supreme Court decision. These decisions are very clear and no deviation from those firm rulings are allowed.

  • @Richard
    All that to say it is your opinion that erecting a cross on a military base is “unconstitutional.” You are entitled to your opinion.

  • @JD

    No JD. To say with certainty that erecting a cross, to the exclusion of other religious symbols on a military reservation, is definitely unconstituional. I have provided proof of that. Purposeful ignorance does not negate truth.

    You must get your head out of the bible for a day or two and begin reading constitutional law and all the rullings that have been made a part thereof. Then you would not be subject to the embarassment I know you will feel when you finally descend from the clouds back to your earrthly station.

    Those who find solace and comfort in scripture would be well advised to explore beyond their limitations in order to discover the reality of secular law. It’s OK to bandy your rejection of civil law around the day room with people of like beliefs but the reality of the situation is that you are a 21st century man, flying a 21st century aircraft while holding 10th century beliefs. You are an anomaly.

    I do not mean to be hypercritical but I see no one else in a position to tell you the truth or willing to do so for fear of retribution. My criticism is an act of friendship.

  • 1.The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose;

    There’s no legislation involved in the Camp Pendleton cross, is there?

    2.The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion; and

    Has anyone ever converted to Christianity because they saw a cross? I don’t see how the simple image of a cross advances Christianity. If that was all it took, 90% of the New Testament could be done away with.

    3.The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion.

    No need to get wrapped around the axle about this one. Some soldiers putting up a cross doesn’t entangle the government.

  • @Nathan

    Nathan, you are a hopeless sycophant.

    1. Secular legislative pupose means that government action must comply with existing secular legislation. No secular legislation allowing exclusive religious displays on government reservations exists. Secular legislation exists banning such displays.

    2. The exclusive display of a well known religious symbol such as the cross on a government reservation is an implied endorsement of the religion it represents. An endorsement of an exclusive religious symbols advances and proselytizes the religion. It is not how many have converted to Christianity by viewing a cross. It is a matter of violation of constituional provision to erect it in government venues.

    3. This cross may not represent an excessive government involvement in religion but it takes violation of only one of the three items in the lemon test to disqualify erecting the cross.

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