Thursday, July 6, 2006 | How’s this for an organization that really goes all out in support of religion and patriotism? Just last April it won a suit in a Rhode Island court on behalf of an inmate who was barred from preaching during Christian religious services.
Last year, this outfit defended the free exercise rights of evangelical Christians to preach on the sidewalks of the Strip in Las Vegas. There’s something for everybody in sin city. People are allowed to hand out pamphlets advertising the delights of “beautiful masseuses who will visit your hotel room.” Now, those who invite masseuses to their rooms and perhaps consort with them will hear an evangelist tell them about the damnation that will follow.
The list goes on and on and on. And guess what? Those stalwart guys are no less than the American Civil Liberties Union, often demeaned by demagogues as “the godless outfit run by Jewish lawyers.”
Look at their action in support of Phil Paulson’s suit to have the cross removed from Mount Soledad. Phil won that case without even using a lawyer. The ACLU only got involved when the city of San Diego appealed the ruling. Then they stayed on the case until 1992, but have been completely out of the picture since.
But when hysterical jingoism is at stake, simple facts are ignored. Take an editorial in the current edition of “American Legion Magazine.” National Commander Thomas L. Bock wrote about 600 words telling his 3 million members that it is the ACLU that is behind all this hubbub about tearing down the cross on the mountain.
He grumbled, “…The ruling came 15 years after Thompson ruled the cross violated the separation of church and state. Originally filed in 1989 by atheist Phillip Paulson, the ACLU-guided lawsuit stayed in the courts until this spring.”
Bock works his way through the article with the deftness of a talk show host, hitting every pseudo patriotic point while ignoring the facts and paying no attention to the many constitutional rulings of similar cases.
Then he really wanders off into la-la land by asking, “What’s next? Will the ACLU target the 9,387 crosses and Stars of David honoring World War II heroes killed during the invasion at Normandy?”
Not according to Kevin Keenan, local CEO of the ACLU. His group has never protested religious symbols for individuals, and those stars and crosses represent the religions of the heroes lying beneath them.
Oh, also Normandy is in a place called France. You’d be surprised how little influence the ACLU has there.
But here we have one proud American institution castigating another proud American institution. One has grabbed the high ground on emotion. The Web site www.legion.org points to its birth in 1919 when it was formed to honor the veterans who just finished the war to end all wars. Currently it also purports to support those who served their country during time of war.
What it does not do is give more than lip service to the Constitution of the United States, at least as defined by the courts. Paulson’s case against the cross on Mount Soledad was such a slam dunk that he won it without a lawyer. Every single similar case has had the same decision.
Yet, the editorial by Bock isn’t the only action from the national office of the Legion regarding San Diego’s cross. On June 28, it filed a friend of the court brief in hopes of preventing further attacks on memorials containing religious imagery or references.
Nor does the Legion truly stand up for all who have served honorably. In 1998, Navy Senior Chief Timothy McVeigh (not the bomber) was being processed for discharge for suspicion of being gay. His commanding officer had just given him near perfect marks in all respects on his evaluation. The skipper added that the sailor was the best sailor he had ever seen. The American Legion ignored all that and jumped in on the side of the government.
Perhaps to copper on their bet, their motto is “For God and Country.” Just as I do not believe that cross on Mount Soledad represents me despite my 23 years of service, I would not join an outfit that proclaims a religious belief ahead of duty to my country.
In 1988 George H. W. Bush castigated his opponent for being a card carrying member of the ACLU.
Well, George, so am I and I’m proud of being a member of an outfit that stands up for the Constitution of my country. They do this even for those who detest them, just because it’s right.
That would make for a far better affirmation of patriotism than “For God and Country.”