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Jewish World Review Oct. 27, 2005 / 24 Tishrei, 5766

John Leo

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The ACLU is crossing the line | The "tiny cross" people at the American Civil Liberties Union are at it again. They are the folks with extra-keen eyes who search the seals of towns and counties for miniature crosses that they like to trumpet as grave threats to separation of church and state.

This time around, they are leaning on the village of Tijeras, N.M., whose seal contains a conquistador's helmet and sword, a scroll, a desert plant, a fairly large religious symbol (the Native American zia) and a small Christian cross. Tiny cross inspectors are not permitted to fret about large non-Christian religious symbols, only undersized Christian ones, so the ACLU filed suit to get the cross removed.

The cross is obviously not an endorsement of religion, any more than the conquistador helmet endorses Spanish warfare. The courts have ruled, not always consistently, that crosses, as historic references in such seals and logos, are permissible. But the ACLU these days is strongly committed to seeing church-state crises everywhere, and thus pushes things way too far.

Last year the ACLU demanded that Los Angeles County eliminate from its seal a microscopic cross representing the missions that settled the state of California. Under threat of expensive litigation, the county complied.

What will happen if the ACLU learns that Los Angeles, Santa Monica, San Francisco, St. Louis and Corpus Christi actually have religious names? We shudder to think.

The campaign to remove all traces of religion from the entire public square is far advanced. Part of that campaign is to squelch private expression in and around public schools. Students have been punished for reading the Bible outside of class and for thanking G-d or Jesus in a valedictory speech. Last week, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals accepted the case of Antonio Peck, who, as a kindergartner in suburban Syracuse in 1999, had his drawing censored from a class display because of church-state concerns. Antonio was told to illustrate his understanding of the environment. He drew a man with upraised arms, wearing a robe. When asked, the boy said the man was Jesus, who was "the only way to save the world." The trial will decide whether his school is guilty of viewpoint censorship.

As if to prove that church-state objections can be found on the right as well, the band director at C.D. Hylton High School in Virginia pulled the song "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" after a conservative objected. He wondered why the school should be allowed to sing about the devil when they are not allowed to sing about G-d.

Next: the ACLU sues to ban deviled eggs from the school cafeteria.

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JWR contributor John Leo's latest book is Incorrect Thoughts: Notes on Our Wayward Culture. Send your comments by clicking here.


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