The Supreme Court’s hearing a case that could be interesting (or not) involving a ginormous cross in the Mojave National Preserve atop Sunrise Rock that was put there in 1934 as a “war memorial.” Ten years ago, as the L.A. Times reports, “it came under legal attack from a former park service employee who, though a Catholic, thought it was inappropriate to favor one religion over another in the preserve. The National Park Service had turned down a request to have a Buddhist symbol erected nearby.
“A federal judge and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the stand-alone display of the cross in the national preserve was unconstitutional and, further, Congress’ move to transfer it to the private VFW did not solve the problem.
“The Obama administration, joining with the VFW, urged the high court to uphold the display of the cross now that it is in private hands.”
In other words, the government was trying to duck the issue by shoving a piece of (formerly public) land with the cross on it off into private hands then declare, See, it’s a private matter right to have a ginormous cross right in the middle of public land, heh-heh.
Well, the court will now decide to focus on the “private” land deal only or go for a larger view, but what was interesting was how well this case illustrates how we get ourselves into paradigms that then that construct becomes “real.”
In this case, without even thinking about it much, it is culturally accepted that a cross signifies death, graves, war-dead memorial & etc. You name it, if you’re looking for a symbol involving “dead,” the cross is simply a cultural “given,” handed down from our theocratic ancestors. Build a memorial to dead people? Put up a cross. No questions asked. Of course we put a cross up, we’re honoring dead people. What else would you put up??? So, Honored Dead = cross; case closed.
So now we have Justice Scalia apparently stuck in this paradigm, which is scary. A justice of the Supreme Court? Stuck in constructs?
Argued the ACLU, a cross “is the predominant symbol of Christianity. It signifies that Jesus is the son of God and died to redeem mankind for our sins,” Peter Eliasberg told the justices. But because of its special religious significance, he said, it should not stand alone as a prominent symbol in a national park.
“Justice Antonin Scalia sharply disagreed. ‘It’s erected as a war memorial. I assume it is erected in honor of all the war dead.”
“Eliasberg objected, ‘I have been in Jewish cemeteries. There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew.’
“Scalia shot back: ‘I don’t think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that the cross honors are the Christian war dead. I think that’s an outrageous conclusion.”
Uh, no, Mr. Scalia, the outrageous conclusion is that a Supreme Court justice finds himself comfortably and unquestioningly in a cultural construct that accepts, without question, that, Of COURSE a War Dead Memorial = A Cross, What else should be used” in honor of all the war dead?”
What else, indeed. Think, Mr. Scalia. THINK.
Quick, Hide the Gerbils
Followup story on the Supreme Court’s hearing on the 1st Amendment case versus selling videos of dogs fighting or “snuff” films involving torturing and killing small animals for sexual gratification of sickos & etc. (Quel Make-A-Buck American! Quel human, alas!) the Times reports the justices taking the discussion of this issue to an interesting new place.
“Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. garnered the attention of his colleagues with a series of questions on whether videos portraying humans being killed would be protected as free speech.
“Describing a hypothetical scenario, Alito said there might well be a “pay per view” market for programs made outside the United States and beyond the power of U.S. law that showed people actually being killed. He call it the ‘Human Sacrifice Channel’ and wondered aloud whether Congress could outlaw the showing of such programs in this country.
“Live. Pay-per-view, you know, on the Human Sacrifice Channel. That’s OK?” Alito asked.
“A lawyer defending a Virginia man who sold dog-fighting videos said she wasn’t sure.
“The fact conduct is repulsive or offensive does not mean we automatically ban the speech,” said Patricia Millett, the lawyer for Robert Stevens.
“She said the 1st Amendment usually protects speech and expression, even if the underlying conduct is ugly or illegal. She said the government should work to stop the illegal acts rather than make it a crime to show the illegal acts. [Forgetting the powerful link between sales fueling and even creating the behavior because it’s so lucrative – the old free market at work.]
“Several members of the court pressed her.
“I’m still looking for an answer,” said Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. “You are unwilling to say that Congress can pass a law that you cannot have a Human Sacrifice Channel.”
Ah, doncha love it. A Human Sacrifice Channel. Well, rest assured, if there’s a way to make THAT happen, bet on it – it’ll show up on your nearest pay-per-view and will make a bundle!
Meantime, this case will attempt to somehow figure out where 1st Amendment lines can be drawn. So far it’s No yelling Fire in Crowded theatres and no Child Porn. And, of course, there’s all kinds of remedies in civil court vis a vis libel & etc. But will the court add No Animal torture & snuff films for profit and/or No Human Sacrifice Channels to the list? Or will those be O.K? Stay tuned.