Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"An Outrageous Conclusion"

Another gem from Antonin Scalia, the dumbest smart guy we know:  the Cross is not a Christian symbol.

The issue at hand is  the propriety of a big cross in the Mojave Desert to honor the Great War dead.  Here's how it plays out in oral argument:

“It’s erected as a war memorial. I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead,” Scalia said of the cross that the Veterans of Foreign Wars built 75 years ago atop an outcropping in the Mojave National Preserve. “What would you have them erect?…Some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and you know, a Muslim half moon and star?”

Peter Eliasberg, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer arguing the case [and whom Father A. is almost certain he worked with, years ago], explained that the cross is the predominant symbol of Christianity and commonly used at Christian grave sites, not that the devoutly Catholic Scalia needed to be told that.

“I have been in Jewish cemeteries,” Eliasberg continued. “There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew.”

There was mild laughter in the packed courtroom, but not from Scalia.

“I don’t think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that that cross honors are the Christian war dead. I think that’s an outrageous conclusion,” Scalia said, clearly irritated by the exchange.

Bloomberg columnist Ann Woolner asks, reasonably, whether Scalia could possibly have believed his own words.  And well she might.  Scalia seems to argue that this grave marker does not violate the separation of church and state, not because religious symbols may sometimes be appropriate in public venues (an argument we might support) but rather because the cross a deracinated symbol, no longer the reminder of Christ and his sacrifice for our sake, but rather something closer to the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus, public emblems rooted in Christian heritage but not in Christian faith.

This is, to put it mildly, a betrayal of the Cross.

Fulton Sheen, if we remember correctly, claimed that a Christ without a Cross is powerless, and a Cross without Christ is blasphemy.

So please, Andy.  Puh-leeze.  You pretend, as jurists are generally required to pretend, that you are a dispassionate observer, committed only to abstract ideals and the pursuit of capital-J Justice.  But stories like this remind us that you, rather more consistently than anybody except your doltish henchman Clarence Thomas, are in fact single-minded in pursuit not of Justice, much less of Truth, but rather of your own damn way. 

1 comment:

Pastor Joelle said...

I saw a segment on this on PBS Ethics and Religion and heard someone else with this argument that the cross has nothing to do with Christianity and thought how ironic that Christians would desecrate the cross in the name of defending it. And it's interesting that the man who brought forth the suit to remove it is a very devout Catholic for whom the cross very much a symbol of his faith.