Only a lawyer could find reason to declare two pieces of wood unconstitutional. It came to light this week that the ACLU, representing an anonymous plaintiff, is doing just that. A few days ago vandals cut down a wooden cross on the sand dunes near the Monterey Beach Resort. The City of Monterey may be unable to repair or replace it due to legal opinions that a religious symbol on public park land is unconstitutional. The cross, which stood for several decades, along with a second cross above Carmel River Beach, was erected to replicate a historic event.
In December 1769 the Portola land expedition, suffering from malnutrition and illness, failed to connect with a supply ship. Before returning to San Diego, they erected two crosses, one overlooking Monterey beach, and another overlooking Carmel River Beach. They were not intended primarily as religious symbols, but as easily constructed markers that would be recognized by ships at sea. Buried under the crosses were messages reporting on their situation.
The principle of separation of church and state is intended to prevent government from forcing citizens to participate in religious activities, and to prevent churches from having undue influence over the affairs of government. It does not require that every square inch of public property must be sterilized of any religious reference.
The crosses overlooking local beaches were never intended to promote religion. Their actual historic meaning is more secular than religious. In no way do they require anyone to participate in religious worship, nor do they influence government business. Therefore they should satisfy constitutional requirements.
The fact that some people find Christian symbols offensive is not sufficient reason to remove them by legal or illegal means. Seeing offense where none is intended is nothing but a thought self-generated by the mind that is offended. It has no objective substance. Our community should not have to sacrifice cultural artifacts for the sake of a few who cannot put them into historical perspective. Nor should we reward the vandals who cut down the Monterey cross by allowing legal squabbles to obstruct repairs.
Addendum: September 30. The Monterey Herald has posted photos of the day the cross was dedicated, indicating it was erected as part of the city's bicentennial celebration. Click here.