Religious Monuments on Public LAND Threatens Religions
In Montana a ski resort has a statue of Jesus atop a mountain as a memorial for WWII veterans. There is a cross commemorating Ground Zero in New York. In Alabama a man of law looks to a sculpture of the Ten Commandments for inspiration.
There is nothing wrong with any of these displays as I have described them. They are wonderful examples of people practicing their faith via their freedom of religion. I may be an atheist, but I certainly can appreciate and respect another person creating works of art and erecting them in praise of their religious beliefs.
The problem with these examples though is that all three are or were on display on public land owned by the government. The statue of Jesus, that cross at Ground Zer0, or the Ten Commandments display are all on government owned publicly accessible land. These violate the Establishment Clause, which is part of the first amendment of the Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It is that first statement that is so important, because by not respecting any establishment of religion we guarantee that no religion will gain favored status over another. If we allow just one religion to be favored we must then deal with the consequences. Some may not believe that such consequences would be severe. I believe that they would be devastating.
The devastation will be mainly applied to religions though. Which religions will we allow to be represented? Christianity? Even if we did limit the selection to just Christianity which version? Lutheran? Catholicism? Baptists? Evangelicals?
Imagine if each of those monuments that I mentioned in the first paragraph were all representations of the Catholic Madonna, or the Buddha, or even L. Ron Hubbard? Think of how offended some religious people would be, not because the monument is a religious one but because it is not a monument for their religion. This is just the mere tip of the iceberg though when the state supports (not defends) a religious expression.
The real devastation comes the moment the state denies a religious monument because the state does not recognize the validity of that religion. So you put a big Jesus statue on a mountain, and then to make sure you represent all people you put a big Star of David next to it, and then you put a huge Buddha next to that. But then along come the Satanists, Wiccans, Scientologists, and others who practice a fringe religion that others object to.
And at this point the state says “Enough already! None of you fringe groups may have your monuments on this mountain!”
You just had the state decide that a religion is not valid. You just had the state tell people what they should and should not believe. Oh the state may not have actually said that all those religions were less than Christianity, Judaism, or Buddhism, but the mountain and its monuments make it clear who the state favors and endorses.
And if the state can go that far, it will go farther still. One day that Buddha statue will have to go. Too expensive to maintain since it requires a gold paint job every now and then. Then that Star of David will have to go, because those six points are a safety hazard. Then all that will remain is that Jesus statue, and since so many people love Jesus the state will want to make those people happy. So the state will take that Jesus statue’s maintenance off the hands of the private owners who originally constructed it.
Then the state will decide that Jesus’s robes would look better if painted red, white, and blue. Then the state will use the words of the Bible to endorse the state’s latest proposals and policies. Soon you no longer have a Jesus statue, or Christianity. What you have is a theocracy. The state is the religion of the land.
You get the Taliban, and not religious freedom.
This is the true danger that emerges when we ignore the separation of church and state. This is the evil of power that results in the slow corruption of that which is sacred into that which is blasphemous.
As an atheist, my fear of religious monuments on public land has nothing to do with the religions that are represented. My fear is that eventually no religion will be represented, but that worship of the state will be mandatory.
The separation of church and state is not meant to oppress religion. The separation of church and state protects religions from being oppressed. So if you love Jesus, get his statue off the state’s mountain. Otherwise you might lose the right to worship Jesus at all.