Atheists Who Quashed Cross Memorial Misinterpret First Amendment

By Rachel Alexander Published on February 21, 2015

The atheistic Freedom From Religion Foundation recently pressured a West Virginia school into taking down a cross that was part of a longtime memorial for a beloved teacher. There was no constitutional grounds for doing so.

Joann Christy was a teacher for 26 years at Ravenswood Middle School in Jackson County until she lost her life in a car accident in 2004 when driving home from a bible study. Members of the community and her family set up stone memorial near the school’s entrance, which included an unobtrusive stone cross displaying the word “faith.” Ten years later, FFRF decided they didn’t like the cross, and sent a letter to the school requesting an investigation.

There was no evidence anyone found the display offensive, but, FFRF successfully intimidated Christy’s family and the school into taking down the cross. “The First Amendment mandates that schools cannot advance or promote religion, so that’s what this display is doing,” said Patrick Elliott, a staff attorney with FFRF.

Atheist organizations like FFRF have figured out they can bully public bodies into removing any religious references, because governments are strapped for cash and cannot afford to defend the lawsuits. But it’s all a ruse. FFRF distorts the meaning of the First Amendment as it applies to religion in the public sphere, particularly as it applies to Christian religion in the public square. The Founding Fathers made the Establishment Clause part of the First Amendment in order to prohibit the federal government from establishing an official religion. It was never intended to reach down to prohibit a small memorial display for a revered teacher.

Although in the last 50 years the U.S. Supreme Court has begun to invoke the Establishment Clause to restrict religious symbols and references in public settings, it has never gone as far as the FFRF would prefer. If the purpose of a religious display or mention is primarily secular, then the court has tended to conclude that it passes constitutional muster. That is why there is still a national motto “In God We Trust,” the affirmation “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, and the recognition of both Thanksgiving and Christmas as national holidays.

The purpose of the memorial for Joann Christy is to remember her legacy, not promote religion. Crosses are frequently associated with memorials and the deceased — even for those who don’t consider themselves especially religious.

This threat of litigation is part of a strategy by atheists to gradually chip away at religion in society. Bit by bit, they are removing anything remotely related to God, and especially the Christian religion, from the public sphere. Since the size of government keeps increasing, the areas atheists can claim are public are increasing while the areas that are considered private are shrinking. Their goal, which they are slowly achieving, is to eventually stamp out all mention of God and the Christian religion from society.

One wonders why the Christian religion has been targeted so heavily. Could it be because the evidence of its truth is so strong it bothers atheists more than other religions?

If crosses can be stamped out in socially conservative West Virginia, it may not be long before “In God We Trust” is removed from our money and “one nation under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. The time may not be far off when references to God are quarantined to private homes and churches.

The memorial for teacher Christy also contains carvings of angels, since she collected them. The school does not intend to remove them. Perhaps this is because the school’s mascot is a red devil. Curiously FFRF has not objected to either the angels or to the school’s mascot, which suggests that their interest is not so much in purging mere religion, but rather Christianity, from the public sphere.



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