January 2012 Church & State | AU Bulletin

Americans United has sent a letter to military officials asking for the removal of a large cross on the grounds at Camp Pendleton in southern California.

The 13-foot-tall Christian religious symbol was erected by a group of marines as a memorial to fallen service personnel. What those who displayed the cross failed to consider, however, is that the U.S. military is a highly diverse organization made up of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Humanists and others, and that because the cross is on government property, it raises a constitutional issue.

“While we understand and sympathize with these soldiers’ desire to memorialize fallen comrades, the erection of a permanent Christian cross on government property raises serious constitutional concerns,” AU said in a Nov. 23 letter. “Even assuming that the soldiers who erected the cross display were off-duty or no longer active military, allowing a prominent display of a large cross to remain on government property will still communicate to the service members on the base that Camp Pendleton endorses the cross’s Christian message.”

Marine Corps lawyers are presently considering how to respond to the letter, and it is not known what their timetable is for a response, according to the North County Times.

The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers joined AU in signing the letter to military authorities.