On June 6th, many outlets highlighted the 69th anniversary of the D-Day landings that would ultimately free Europe from the reign of Nazi terror. They also highlighted the fact that thousands of US servicemembers died storming the beaches, many of whom are buried in France and Luxembourg. Iconic images recall the price:
WWII and D-Day veteran Raymond Moon kneels before the grave of a fallen comrade at the American cemetery at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France on Friday, June 4, 2004. Moon served in the 29th Division and returned to France for the 60th anniversary of D-Day. (AP Photo/Laura Rauch) / ASSOCIATED PRESS
As the world remembered that sacrifice, however, inappropriate timing by atheists tried to doom the memory of such imagery.
Just days earlier, the American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit against the City of Lake Elsinore because it planned to erect a Veterans’ Memorial that was supposed to look something like this artist’s rendition:
This has actually been going on for several years. The original design, identical to the one used in King, North Carolina, included only the cross; the field of crosses and the Star of David were added to make the image look more like a military cemetery — purely to satisfy the critics.
It didn’t work.
“The city has clearly violated the First Amendment by unnecessarily choosing a divisively religious means of honoring our veterans,” said William Burgess, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “In addition, the California constitution prohibits any governmental funding whatsoever for religious purposes, including religious monuments.”
The city “clearly violated the First Amendment,” despite the fact they’re using an instantly recognizable image that is, as noted above, iconic — and even current.
Perennial military atheist critic Jason Torpy is the Treasurer for the AHA, but he wasn’t the only one helping the cause. US Marine Sgt Paul Loebe, representing American Atheists, eloquently said the city council was “giving the finger to foxhole atheists” and called on his supporters to flood their offices with emails and phone calls, for which he provided the contact information. Loebe himself repeated (again) the long-debunked demographics that try to overstate the number of atheists in the military.
As a decorated combat veteran with multiple tours to both Iraq and Afghanistan I am deeply offended…It is not just myself, or the nearly 21% of the military who claim to be non-religious, but also those of minority faiths who you greatly insult and misrepresent…
You may disregard this message if you wish but I assure you it will be made public and my fellow foxhole atheists will be in touch.
In addressing the council via email, Loebe then veers off into left field:
You claim that it is historical in context but that in itself is a lie perpetuated by false historians like David Barton.
Who? What does that have to do with World War II, or the imagery of a Soldier kneeling at his fallen comrade’s headstone? The search for offense knows no bounds.
To the average American, that image recalls the image of a Soldier mourning at his comrade’s headstone. To a few hypersensitive military atheists, it represents an illegal “Christian shrine.” In response, more than a few people have suggested replacing this or similar images with the “battlefield cross,” which consists of the overturned rifle, helmet, and boots.
While that might seem like a satisfactory compromise (at least in the modern era, to which it is more often connected), remember that former Army Captain Jason Torpy, who has led much of these atheist attacks, even thinks the battlefield cross should be re-named.
This is only the most recent memorial to be attacked; many others have preceded it, and there are many more around the world that will likely follow should it fall. Some atheists will stop at nothing until every cross is pulled from the public view, no matter how benign — or iconic, or dramatic — they may be.
Addendum: It’s not even distinctly American imagery:
Canadian soldier kneels at grave of fallen comrade in the United Nations Cemetery, Korea, April 1951. (National Archives of Canada PA 128813)
Some military pagans had their own take on the imagery.
Also at the Religion Clause.
Photo credit: A soldier grieves at a memorial service for Spc. Artimus Brassfield and Spc. Jose L. Mora Jr., in Samarra, Iraq, Oct. 28, 2003. The soldiers were killed in a mortar attack while serving with the 66th Armor Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, at Forward Observation Base Stoddard, Oct. 24, 2003. (DoD photo by Sgt. Jack Morse, U.S. Army)