Military Atheists protest Pendleton Cross

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Military Atheists protest Pendleton Cross


We begin our discussion with an article from the LA Times:

To honor the memory of four Marine comrades killed in Iraq and to show respect for all military personnel sent to foreign lands, a small but determined group trudged up a steep hill at Camp Pendleton on Friday morning as the nation observed Veterans Day.

At precisely the date and time when World War I officially ended, giving rise to Armistice Day -- the forerunner to Veterans Day -- the group erected a 13-foot cross. The cross replaced one put on the hill in 2003 by the Marines before they deployed to Iraq. It was destroyed by a brush fire.

The four Marines were part of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. The 2/1 was a lead element in the battle of Fallouja in early 2004.

 “We wanted them all to know that they’ll always be in our hearts, that they’ll never be forgotten,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Rettenberger. He was also with the 2/1 and will deploy soon for his second tour to Afghanistan with a different battalion. He was wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan but insisted on reenlisting.


Naturally and predictably, this led to a complaint from the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers:

After receiving a complaint from an atheists' organization, Marine brass at Camp Pendleton are reviewing whether to permit a cross atop a hill on the base to remain.

After an article about the new cross appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers protested to base officials that the cross violates the separation of church and state required by the Constitution.


Specifically, MAAF on it’s website states that:

MAAF spends the vast majority of its time fostering community and providing outreach to the military.  In a case where federal officials allow to stand a prominent Christian cross as a representation of military service, atheists, humanists, and all non-Christians who have fought and died for our country are relegated to second-class citizenship.

Heh, that fostering community thing doesn’t seem to be working out too well, judging by the comments left at their website, including this well written one by “Frontliner233”:

Ladies and gentlemen, I am a fellow atheist and have been for over ten years. I joined the Marine Corps in 2002 and continue to serve today. Never in that time have I been asked to change my beliefs or encouraged to be silent about my religious opinions… I will say that the opposition to that monument by this organization disgusts me and takes away from our brotherhood and all that we stand for. I suggest instead that we devise an equal memorial for non religious service members to be erected near the camp Horno site. I think we all know that the symbol chosen to represent the current memorial may have been ill chosen but that when it comes to the brotherhood My understanding of military service it represents more than just one secular faith.   [Corrected for grammar and spelling]

 Other commenters both at the MAAF site and at This Ain’t Hell where my buddy Jonn is covering the story agree that this might not be the fight to take up.  As “Andy FMF” said:

Maybe they should ask the dead what they think.

My sergeant, an avowed atheist, fully supported that cross. Nine months later I was climbing that hill, with the rest of my company, to put his rock at the base of the cross.

The cross is visible if you know where to look and if the clouds are not hiding Microwave.

For my part, I’ve always believed what Justice Kennedy so eloquently stated in the Mojave Desert Cross case:

A Latin cross is not merely a reaffirmation of Christian beliefs. It is a symbol often used to honor and respect those whose heroic acts, noble contributions and patient striving help secure an honored place in history for this Nation and its people.

Here, one Latin cross in the desert evokes far more than religion. It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields making the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies are compounded if the fallen are forgotten.

I think that MAAF will likely win this, and the Marine Corps will have it taken down.  But, I don’t see this being a huge victory for them, as many non-believers have looked to the cross not as a religious symbol, but as a tribute to their fallen brothers and sisters.  Knowing when not to fight something might be a bigger boost than winning a fight that will gain you nothing.


There is a great video at the LA Times blog, but they have the embed cut off so go watch it there.

Posted in the burner | 13 comments
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I think it is disgusting that these people would protest this, I can't speak my true mind because I'm sure it would be reviewed and deleted.
The Cross is a symbol of "OUR CHRISTIAN RELIGION" ... Knowing before joining the Military, these folks knew that this countries motto has always been "IN GOD WE TRUST" and should remain that ...
Taking down a symbol of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so you pricks could whine and cry about it makes me want to puke!!!

This nation is not a Christian Nation! .. We are a nation of many diverse views. "In God We Trust" was adopted as the official motto of the United States in 1956 .... 170+ years after the country was founded ... time for you Christians to remember that there are other folks in this country that love it as much or more than you do and are willing to serve just as much if not more than you.

In God we trust ... who's GOD?? Christians do not own the term God!

By and large, we are a Christian nation. Groups like this association of free-thinkers have the money, the media, everything save the numbers. Christians have the numbers big time.

The Latin Cross is more than the intersection of two pieces of material, but take on a persona unique unto themselves depending on the circumstances. Will the Navy and Marine Corps "Navy Cross" and the "Distinguished Service Cross" both require a redesign by the Board of Heraldry with a reissued new medal minus the Crosses? Sounds pretty ridiculous, the second two highest awards, often bestowed to a grieving spouse atop an American Flag both contain a Cross as their centerpiece. Is the MAAF considering we stop awarding medals to honor our bravest or to our fallen? I can't believe that you would call yourselves "free thinkers" when you spend your time thinking of ways to waste ours. Think of something which will benefit mankind for a change.

After all the segment happened to the corps and it is either a partly cool in behalf of the Latin cross were the navy believe of it. Majority of the military corps has a rosary the keep them safe no matter what they supposed to do in the battle. For they believe that they could get a safety of their life to be.

After all the segment happened to the corps and it is either a partly cool in behalf of the Latin cross were the navy believe of it. Majority of the military corps has a rosary the keep them safe no matter what they supposed to do in the battle. For they believe that they could get a safety of their life to be.

Atheist morons that want to remove the cross don't speak for me. That cross was erected to honor people; removing it would be a dishonor!

Merry Christmas,
An atheist in Canada

Why is it that the atheists protest anything that smacks of religion? If they have a symbol that gives them peace I doubt seriously that any Christian would complain about it. In this land of freedom of religion no display of faith should be considered offensive.

I am a Vietnam vet and lifelong atheist. The aggressive nature of christens to have their symbols as representative of our military and country has always offended me. Christens in military leadership have forced servicemen and women to participate in ceremonies with religions prayers and symbols arrogantly thinking they knew what was best for us to believe. Atheists have been disrespected and cursed at because of our beliefs much like others seeking civil rights in the past. I have a lifetime of community service to others and did not need religion to motive me. The humanist philosophy is that we are responsible for each other and for our own actions which is as good as any religion. Our country's freedom from religion be respected and the military should not use religious symbols.

USMC '66-'69 Jan. - Oct. 1968 -wounded twice on the DMZ ! I am ashamed to call you 'brother' ! I dont like alot ot symbols out there either - BUT I keep my mouth shut because of respect to others like you. So you can have a right to BELIEVE in whatever. I was blown up twice while in country - bad enough to be 100%. No one that was hit and still alive called out anything but two things -- "Corpman and God please help me" Live and let live my fellow Marine

I have to agree with Cpt. America being one of the "Walkin" Dead"

Hey, when they get done taking down the cross, why dont they complain about the base church and have it removed too,

what a waste of manpower, money, and effort

The cross is only truly viewed as a Christian symbol when a caricature of Christ is attached to it, and it is not meant as a symbol of worship but as a reminder of sacrifice, the sacrifice that their so-called savior supposedly made for them. The other commonly recognized use for the cross is as a hastily made grave marker for someone who meant a great deal to another but was buried without time to make them an etched stone slab for their resting place. The crosses atop the Microwave do not have Christ hanging from them and are not intended as a christian symbol. They are a grave marker, and a symbol of sacrifice that our fallen brothers have made for us and for America. How dare any man woman or child of any race or religion try to despoil a monument to their sacrifice as a senseless religious totem. I have been to those crosses on numerous occasions, I have grieved for my fallen brothers at that monument multiple times. . . I am not a christian, but I am a marine who loves his brothers. . . Shame on you for your ignorant misinterpretation.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.