Freedom From Religion? How Not to Defend Minority Rights

Freedom From Religion? How Not to Defend Minority Rights
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

In the view of some ardent defenders of the separation between religion and state, there was no doubt that a war memorial in the form of a 40-foot-tall cross should not be allowed to stay on state property in Bladensburg, Md. Some Jews saw the presence of the so-called "Peace Cross" on land maintained by the state of Maryland as an insult to all non-Christians, whether they espoused other religions or no religion at all. That's why the American Humanist Society sued the state of Maryland and the American Legion—the veterans group that erected the memorial in 1925—and demanded that it be removed from its current spot on state property.

Agreeing with them was U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the legal idol of much of American Jewry and liberals everywhere, who wrote that keeping the cross where it was undermined "government neutrality among religious faiths and between religion and non-religion." But sensible people, both Jewish and non-Jewish, should be glad that the "Notorious RBG" was outvoted on the case of Maryland v. National Humanist Association by a margin of 7-2 with two fellow members of the liberal faction on the U.S. Supreme Court (Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, who, like Ginsburg, are Jewish) joining with the five conservatives to ensure that the Humanist Society would not get its way. But while common sense prevailed at the high court, the fact that the destruction of the monument was seriously considered—and the decision to let the memorial stand was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League—speaks volumes about what is wrong with the way the discussion of church-state issues is conducted in a Jewish community that the ADL claims to represent.

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