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  #1  
Old 04-25-2016, 01:33 AM
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Default Religious Symbol at a City Park

How about some small-town politics to distract us from the absolute shitstorm that is the presidential race?

My town has a tiny park called Memorial Cross Park. It's on what could generously be called a half-acre of land on an industrial road immediately adjacent to an airport. It marks where one of the old Spanish Missions used to stand back in the 18th century. (Missions are a big deal historically out here.) There is a large granite cross marking the site, donated decades ago.

A resident is suing to have the cross removed on the grounds that it's against the Establishment clause (separation of church and state). But the arguments i've seen in the paper seem specious.

First off, he claims to be a resident. This is an industrial part of the city. There are no residential areas for several miles.

Second, the suit claims religious symbols don't belong on public spaces. Which seems odd, since you see them all over at places like Arlington National Cemetery, Punchbowl in Hawaii, the National Cathedral, etc.

Third, this park is on a crap piece of land that people just drive by. This isn't someone putting the Ten Commandments on an active courthouse. This is an oversized historic marker on an unusable spit of public land. The upkeep on it is likely only the cost of a gardener to come out and trim the hedges a few times a year.

You'd think they'd be more pissed off about marking the genocide of the indigenous population, but you're not supposed to talk about that in the state where Missions are a big deal.

i tried reading the commentary on the article, and in the local 'City' groups on Facebook. Needless to say, that was pointless. i'm curious about the legality of this case. A strict separation of church and state in this instance seems counter-productive. You could use that same argument to nullify protections for indigenous sites, since they're claimed as sacred. Displaying Jefferson's copies of the Bible and Koran would be illegal. Heck, even having them in government hands could be illegal if you take this argument to the logical extreme.

Anyway, here's the article.

(i'm an atheist, and i think this case is someone trying to make a name for themselves. It doesn't solve any problems, and it doesn't right any wrongs. And, unfortunately, it doesn't even spark an intelligent dialogue about the issues.)
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Old 04-25-2016, 02:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Frenzy View Post
(i'm an atheist, and i think this case is someone trying to make a name for themselves. It doesn't solve any problems, and it doesn't right any wrongs. And, unfortunately, it doesn't even spark an intelligent dialogue about the issues.)
Sums it up pretty well.
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Old 04-25-2016, 03:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Frenzy View Post
A resident is suing to have the cross removed on the grounds that it's against the Establishment clause (separation of church and state). But the arguments i've seen in the paper seem specious.
I think that the best solution in this case is to point out that while the Establishment clause guarantees freedom of religion, it is quite explicitly silent about freedom from religion.
So if someone wanted to put a stone pasta bowl in another park to commemorate a famous IPU event there*, then that would have to be decided on the same kind of grounds that were used with the cross (ie. "Who pays? Someone else. All right then." and such). But a park without any monument would be a big no-no.

Things are really simple when you use logic rather than legalistic reasoning.

* If this seems strange, remember: religion doesn't have to make sense
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Old 04-25-2016, 06:40 AM
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Concur with you on this one, Frenzy...especially since its an old Mission site and the cross could actually be considered a reference to that religious background and importance of the site rather than an endorsement of that religion by the government.

The moral of the story here is that there are attention whore douchebags across the political spectrum...even if they are seemingly concentrated on the far right lately.
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Old 04-25-2016, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Davian93 View Post
The moral of the story here is that there are attention whore douchebags across the political spectrum...even if they are seemingly concentrated on the far right lately.
Maybe the far right ones are just more competent on average.
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Old 04-25-2016, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Davian93 View Post
Concur with you on this one, Frenzy...especially since its an old Mission site and the cross could actually be considered a reference to that religious background and importance of the site rather than an endorsement of that religion by the government.

The moral of the story here is that there are attention whore douchebags across the political spectrum...even if they are seemingly concentrated on the far right lately.
Sadly, I think the number on the left is growing.
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Old 04-25-2016, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Frenzy View Post
(i'm an atheist, and i think this case is someone trying to make a name for themselves. It doesn't solve any problems, and it doesn't right any wrongs. And, unfortunately, it doesn't even spark an intelligent dialogue about the issues.)
I think you hit the nail on the head with this. And considering that the cross is basically marking a historical site, well one could easily make that claim. A lot easier than what looks to be a very shaky case of the Establishment Cause.
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Old 05-03-2016, 07:53 AM
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Sadly, I think the number on the left is growing.
I would agree on that. The progressive wing of the party has been essentially dormant since Carter was in office so that's not really a huge surprise as the pendulum swings back towards the Left after the hard right swing it made from essentially 1972-2008. The only 2 democrats elected during that period were southern Democrats of a fairly conservative bent overall...Clinton even famously running on the same "Third Way" platform that brought Labour to power in the UK. Progressives finally remembered they have a voice and you're seeing that a bit more now. The country is also more polarized politically than it has been in decades and that sort of polarization tends to push people from the middle to each extreme as a Us vs. Them mentality sets in.
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Old 05-03-2016, 06:22 PM
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I think people tend to forget that the Establishment Clause was meant to protect religion from government, not government from religion... Though the original meaning has been twisted throughout the years as has been many other constitutional principles.
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Old 05-03-2016, 06:25 PM
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Concur with you on this one, Frenzy...especially since its an old Mission site and the cross could actually be considered a reference to that religious background and importance of the site rather than an endorsement of that religion by the government.

The moral of the story here is that there are attention whore douchebags across the political spectrum...even if they are seemingly concentrated on the far right lately.
Concentrated on the far right? I think you need to take a look at the education system and then rephrase that... Though I guess you make sure to state that it's across the political spectrum.
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Old 05-03-2016, 06:39 PM
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Concentrated on the far right? I think you need to take a look at the education system and then rephrase that... Though I guess you make sure to state that it's across the political spectrum.
Sorry that reality has a left wing bias and that upsets you.
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Old 05-04-2016, 03:40 AM
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I think people tend to forget that the Establishment Clause was meant to protect religion from government, not government from religion... Though the original meaning has been twisted throughout the years as has been many other constitutional principles.
Where your Founding Fathers truly that dumb?

If they had bothered to pay any attention at all to the preceding couple of centuries of history in Europe (which, supposedly, were what prompted them to include this clause in the first place) then they would have known that if religion was allowed to dictate government, then people with other religions would take up weapons against that government in self protection, and you'd have yet another series of religious wars.

So, given that a whole bunch of varieties of Christianity at the time were strongly interested in using the state apparatus to oppress other Christian sects (and Jews; but all Christians did that), what possible good would that clause do if religion were allowed to dominate government?

But, to be entirely fair to you; it could be argued that the 1st Amendment does not provide such protection of government from religion. But the only reason why such an argument makes sense is that it was pre-empted by Article VI:
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The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
The latter part of this does give a quite clear prohibition on religious meddling in the business of government, and not a single one of the Amendments has overruled this by establishing an official state religion.

So, is there any reason why the "no religious test" clause should not actually mean what it says or why it should no longer apply to the USA?
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Old 05-04-2016, 02:23 PM
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If they had bothered to pay any attention at all to the preceding couple of centuries of history in Europe ...
The fact that a large percentage of the founding fathers were the descendants of religious refugees fleeing the oppression of state sponsored religions, they weren't particularly concerned about European History, they were concerned that they might have to flee government sponsored religion again.

Their first concern was that government should not establish a religion or suppress any religion. Politicians following their conscience and/or religious teachings wasn't a concern; they would have been horrified at the suggestion that personal religious belief did not influence politicians.
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Old 05-04-2016, 02:29 PM
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I apparently used to drive by this park every day to and from work, and I never even knew it was there.
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Old 05-09-2016, 02:40 PM
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I think people tend to forget that the Establishment Clause was meant to protect religion from government, not government from religion... Though the original meaning has been twisted throughout the years as has been many other constitutional principles.
This is explicitly wrong, and it is a shame you won't bother to return to this thread to acknowledge it.

Firstly, the Establishment Clause was directly inspired by the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which is quite explicit in that its purpose is to keep religion out of government, not the opposite.

Quote:
"Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods"
Moreover, the "wall of separation" phrase comes from Jefferson's letter to the Baptists of Danbury, who were not afraid of government intrusion, but their fellow Christians, the Episcopalians of Danbury. Jefferson's reply should be considered the definitive word on the issue; as I know you associate with the "Originalist" faction on the Supreme Court, there can be no debate about meanings or intent on the part of the Founders. They explained it themselves; their concern was that government would be organized and run according to the principles of one particular sect of crazies. If you are a Muslim or a Jew in this country, I bet you don't draw much distinction between a Baptist and a Seventh Day Adventist; any government funded cross in a public place is explicit support by the federal government for a particular cult. Frankly, places of worship shouldn't be given tax exemption at all.

Basically, in order, the Establishment Clause was meant to protect first government from domination by a particular religious faction, then other religions from majority cults, and finally the cultic worship centers across the United States from oppression by the federal government.
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Old 05-09-2016, 02:50 PM
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This is explicitly wrong, and it is a shame you won't bother to return to this thread to acknowledge it.

...

Basically, in order, the Establishment Clause was meant to protect first government from domination by a particular religious faction, then other religions from majority cults, and finally the cultic worship centers across the United States from oppression by the federal government.
It can be argued that the establishment clause is a chicken and egg clause. In order to protect religion from government, it is necessary to protect government from religion.

One way to paraphrase the clause is, "The government shall not play favorites when it comes to religion." That would apply to applying one religion's rules as well as imposing rules on un-favored religions.
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Old 05-10-2016, 03:21 PM
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It can be argued that the establishment clause is a chicken and egg clause. In order to protect religion from government, it is necessary to protect government from religion.

One way to paraphrase the clause is, "The government shall not play favorites when it comes to religion." That would apply to applying one religion's rules as well as imposing rules on un-favored religions.
I think that's a bad paraphrasing. Obviously, its been interpreted that way, but it would be far better to just not recognize ANY religions.

Interesting side note for discussion: In New York City, one of the effects of the Mayor's affordable housing policies is that when religious institutions (or any institution) sells property that requires rezoning, the city is requiring affordability.

Church representatives (of all denominations) are railing against this, because it basically makes it impossible for churches to monetize their property, since its barely possible to build affordable housing even with heavy city subsidies. Since many churches have tiny bank accounts and most of their assets are tied up in this land, and not all denominations are focused on affordable housing, some religious leaders or their representatives are arguing that non-profits should be allowed to sell their excess land so they can fund their primary charitable missions (lets leave out the very common and likely instances of fraud or misappropriation of funds and assume everyone is honest). The counter is that none of these churches would have been able to allow their property to accumulate value over the decades without being able to hold it on a tax-exempt basis, and also that it is the city that is creating the value through the rezoning allowing for greater density.

I can see both sides of this argument, but felt it might generate some interesting opinions.
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Old 05-10-2016, 04:36 PM
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I think that's a bad paraphrasing. Obviously, its been interpreted that way, but it would be far better to just not recognize ANY religions.
That is true. But it is irrelevant to the question of who is protected from whom by the establishment clause.

The determination of what is a "religion" and/or tax exemptions isn't required by the Constitution.
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Old 05-11-2016, 01:53 PM
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That is true. But it is irrelevant to the question of who is protected from whom by the establishment clause.

The determination of what is a "religion" and/or tax exemptions isn't required by the Constitution.
Well that depends on how you interpret it, no? The Constitution says the government cannot establish a state religion; that more or less requires one to define what a religion is, and what isn't, right?
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Old 05-11-2016, 03:29 PM
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Well that depends on how you interpret it, no? The Constitution says the government cannot establish a state religion; that more or less requires one to define what a religion is, and what isn't, right?
No. As long as you aren't trying to pass a law that says everyone must believe the same thing, you don't need to define what anyone believes. If you don't provide tax exemptions for any religion, you don't need to define who does or doesn't get exemptions -- etc.
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