There’s a bit of a controversy that has been stirred up in Knoxville, Iowa. A resident of that small town noted that there was a blatantly Christian display in a city park. The display is a memorial to fallen veterans, a worthy thing to honor, but it’s the imagery that had the citizen concerned.
The monument is a silhouette of a kneeling soldier in front of a large, white cross. It sits in an area dedicated to veterans called the Freedom Rock, a large boulder painted with military scenes and symbols. Both memorials are in Young’s Park, a municipal property. While the rock has no overt religious symbols, the memorial does. This troubled the resident and he contacted Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who asked the city to remove the sculpture from the park.
The mayor of Knoxville, Brian Hatch, has refused and he says that he is investigating options. He doesn’t understand why anyone is concerned. After all, it’s a memorial to fallen soldiers, it belongs where it is:
“It only makes sense to go there. The whole entire area there is only for one purpose, and that’s to honor veterans. We did not see any religious tie to this monument whatsoever. We just thought it was a tribute to a fallen soldier. So we didn’t do anything about it, and we were OK with that.”
My emphasis. No religious tie to the monument? There’s a big, honking cross on it! That symbol is overtly and exclusively Christian. Also, the soldier is kneeling in front of it. It’s pretty hard to miss the religious tie, there.
A local man is now trying to “save the cross.” This caught the attention of Fox’s Todd Starnes, naturally enough. Starnes spoke to the man, Doug Goff, who completely misses the point:
“When we are bending to the will of one person in the town – you know something is wrong there. The cross is white because the headstones in Arlington are white. Would you take that cross down, too?”
Aside from the fact that the color of the cross is not the issue, nobody is “bending to the will of one person.” If there is any bending going on, it is to the First Amendment. But that didn’t register with Starnes. He wants answers, dammit!
“I think Americans United should answer Mr. Goff’s question. Will they demand that Arlington Cemetery remove their crosses?”
Probably not. Because there are no crosses in Arlington National Cemetery. There are headstones with individual religious symbols on them, according to the preference of the veteran buried there. This means that there are also Stars of David, Crescent and Stars, Pentacles (that took a while), Buddhist and Sikh and Baha’i symbols, even an atomic symbol for Atheists. All of these appear on the same style of headstone, rightly honoring all the dead at that sacred site — no matter their religion.
This Americans United meme makes the point quite well:
Oh, and that picture you usually see making the rounds that purports to be Arlington National Cemetery, the one with the white crosses in neat rows? Yeah, that’s a graveyard in Europe.
Sarah Jones of Americans United, summed up that group’s motivations and wondered about Starnes’:
“We do not act out of disrespect for veterans. Many members of staff have loved ones who served our country in various conflicts. And those loved ones aren’t all Christians. They, along with many of their brothers and sisters in arms, aren’t represented by memorials that display a Latin cross to the exclusion of all other religious symbols. That exclusion is the real disgrace. So, Mr. Starnes, I’ve answered your question. Now I’d like you to answer mine: Are you trying to honor veterans, or Christianity?”
Yet again, we see that some Christians simply cannot get it through their brains that the First Amendment makes it unconstitutional for their imagery to be displayed on public property. Places paid for with tax payer money represent all of those tax payers, not just the Christian ones. Therefore, either no religious symbols can be displayed there or all of them must be. Can you understand that?
Featured image via The Des Moines Register