I’m agreeing with a group of litigious atheists when I say the cross is a religious symbol. Yesterday, a number of crosses honoring fallen police officers in Utah were deemed illegal by a federal judge, saying they violated the Establishment clause.
While I disagree with the ruling I find myself agreeing with one major aspect of the argument by the atheists who sued to have the crosses removed. The judge overturned a previous decision by a lower judge that allowed the crosses because the crosses could conceivably be seen as generic symbols honoring the lives of the fallen officers.
Deseret News reports:
The white, roadside crosses that currently memorialize the deaths of 14 Utah Highway Patrol troopers are unconstitutional, government endorsements of religion on public lands, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.
“We hold that these memorials have the impermissible effect of conveying to the reasonable observer the message that the state prefers or otherwise endorses a certain religion,” the court wrote in siding with the Texas-based American Atheists, Inc…
“The cross is such a poignant religious symbol that calling it a memorial and putting the troopers’ names on it doesn’t change the significant poignant nature of the cross,” said Brian Barnard, an attorney for American Atheists.
Outrageous as removing the crosses is, I think Christians should have been more outraged in some ways by the lower court ruling that the cross is a generic and secular symbol. It’s not. The cross is a powerful symbol of Christ’s sufferings which is the basis of Christianity. The cross is not generic.
Now I know the atheists arguing the point misconstrue the establishment clause but at least they’re not gutting the cross of its relevance. The danger for Christians is that by keeping Christian symbols in the public sphere we deny their meaning.
Atheists can strip our country of crosses but only Christians can strip the cross of its meaning.