2005-06-16—Mt. Soledad Cross
Mt. Soledad Cross advocates more
San Diego Jewish Times, June 16, 2005
Hartline, according to that newspaper, asserts that “people like him will storm San Diego’s polls in two months to save the Mount Soledad cross—and swing the mayor’s race by voting for someone who shares their views.”
With so many politicians either agreeing that the cross
needs to stay on Mount Soledad—or at least paying lip service to the
idea—it’s hard to believe that the issue will have much effect in the July
26 special election. Voters who
want to keep the cross on Mount Soledad probably will divide their votes among
numerous candidates, whereas, those who favor ending 16 years of litigation by
moving the cross appear to have only one major candidate to vote for, Donna
Frye. That being the case,
Frye could end up with a greater plurality than anyone else by offering an
alternative—just as she surprised everyone in the last mayoral election with
her nearly winning write-in candidacy.
In the Jewish community, we should be less concerned with the political tea leaves and more concerned with what is the right thing to do. A cross no more belongs on a public mountaintop as a symbol of the sacrifice veterans have made for our country than a Star of David or any other religious symbol does.
Perhaps reflecting an inherited ghetto mentality, members of the Jewish community—with two notably disappointing exceptions—generally have been laying low on this issue, apparently hoping that the controversy won’t become so bitter that disgruntled Christian triumphalists will start a pogrom against us.
The exceptions are Myke Shelby, now a candidate for mayor, and Phil Thalheimer, a former candidate for City Council who is expected to run again. They’ve made a point of announcing that they are Jews who favor the cross. I think that their political aspirations have clouded their judgments.
The problem with this issue is that it has been cast as a
win-lose situation, where if one side wins, the other loses—a so-called
“zero-sum game.” I believe to
the contrary there is a win-win solution, which we as a Jewish community ought
to press for. The cross should be
“saved” by arranging for it to be moved to another, non-public mountaintop
such as the sites of either the University of San Diego or Point Loma Nazarene
College. Both institutions are
Christian-owned, and probably would relish having this piece of San Diego
history on either of their campuses. Regardless
of which campus is chosen, the cross could be seen for miles.
I know that for many Christians triumphalists, the issue is not veterans; the issue really is triumphalism. By raising the cross on hilltops all over the county (Mount Soledad, Mount Helix, Battle Mountain, among them), Christian triumphalists are following an ancient custom known throughout Europe. As much as the crosses are objects of inspiration for believers, they also serve the function of announcing that they stand over “Christian” territory, where Christianity has “triumphed” over other such other belief systems as Judaism, Islam, paganism, atheism, and others.
Such Christian triumphalism accounts for the remarkable advice some speakers recently gave to the City Council during its marathon hearing over whether to schedule the special election on the Mount Soledad cross matter. They actually suggested that voting for such an election would be following “God’s law” which must take precedence over the U.S. Constitution, mere man-made law.
God’s law? Does God really have a point of view about the Mount Soledad cross? If people who believe that they can speak for God prevail on this issue, what will they be emboldened to do next? Forbid the teaching of evolution in the schools? Ban the sale of contraceptives? Put television cameras into everyone’s bedrooms to make sure sex is performed according to religious precepts? Mandate Christian prayer at all public events? The possibilities are endless if Christian triumphalists are successful in their effort to turn America into a theocracy.
Please note that I use the expression “Christian triumphalists” rather than “Christians” because there are numerous Christians who believe that the constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state was one of the greatest gifts the Founders gave to America. For the most part in our history, we were spared the kind of governmental sectarianism that divides Protestant against Catholic in Northern Ireland; Hindu against Muslim in the Asian subcontinent, and Muslim against Jew in the Middle East. Such battles drain the other countries’ energies and resources; whereas in America we thrive because we are unburdened by such sectarianism.
It will only prolong the litigation if city voters decide
to “transfer” the cross to the U.S. Department of Interior—as was provided
for by a midnight amendment inserted into an omnibus congressional bill by San
Diego Republicans Duncan Hunter and Duke Cunningham, without a single public
hearing. James McElroy, the
attorney for plaintiff Philip Paulson, has said if the measure is approved by
the voters, he immediately will seek an injunction to stop the transfer.
The City of San Diego will be the defendant.
The taxpayers will be the losers.