Wednesday, July 26, 2006 | Dear Senators Feinstein and Boxer:

H.R. 5683 passed the House by an overwhelming margin and is on the way across the capital to you folks. I’m sure it will be an easy call for both of you. After all who wants to go against the majority of people? Also there are many more important things to be decided. Why waste political capital on something that can only harm you next election? And messing with religious zealots will harm you plenty.

I’m sure both of you considered such things when you voiced your support for a “secular” cross on Mount Soledad.

I just don’t remember either of you promising to stick to the easy calls when you ran for office. I do pay attention. I even get a little tingly when I see my representatives in Washington hold up their hands and swear to defend the Constitution of the United States.

But the cross on Mount Soledad? Where can I even begin to point out the many things wrong with a city’s giving away valuable property to the federal government, just to save a religious symbol?

I’ll start with the canard that the cross is a secular war memorial. Not so! It is a religions symbol. In 1954 it was dedicated to “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The dedication and services were religious and were held on Easter Sunday not Memorial Day. Further it was never even considered a memorial to veterans until after a lawsuit was filed to have it removed from city property. Not a single plaque commemorating a veteran was put up there until 1989, a few months after the suit was filed.

As for veterans, the cross certainly does not represent plaintiff Phil Paulson who served as a paratrooper and a grunt for two consecutive tours in the most unpopular war in our nation’s history. Paulson not only showed amazing courage in that war, he has shown even more courage in standing up for his right, as a veteran, not to be represented by an unmistakably religious symbol.

Where he deserves representation is in the U.S. Congress, and by representatives who will also show courage when the chips are down.

I’m with my friend, Phil. Although I served nearly 23 years in uniform, that cross doesn’t represent me, not one bit! I am an atheist, and proudly proclaim myself to be one! I was a “nonbeliever,” “agnostic,” “doubter,” and all sorts of other euphemisms until my friend convinced me I had to stand up and be counted for what I am.

I look at that cross and realize that religion, not secularism, excludes my friend and me from outfits like the Boy Scouts of America, the Masons, Moose, Elks, even the American Legion. All this because we simply reject all the 1,350 different religions in our country rather than 1,349 of them as does almost everybody else.

Do you wonder how many of your fellow Jews feel the cross represents them? It and preceding crosses stood guard over La Jolla while covenants excluded them owning property anywhere’s near cross. It is the same symbol that was used in the Crusades when thousands of Jews were put to death. It defined the Inquisition when thousands more were tortured horribly unless they voluntarily accepted Christ.

Religion needs no encouragement from our legislators. Almost every time it gets it, bad things happen. The easy out in this case is simply the wrong choice. History, even history within our lifetimes, shows us what happens unless courageous people are willing to stand up to it.

I beg you, please do what is right, not what avoids criticism or costs you votes. Give yourself a chance to serve your country, then look back with pride for doing what was right, not politically expedient.

Keith Taylor is a retired Navy officer living in Chula Vista. Send a letter to the editor.

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