Written by Don Byrd
A Texas county commission has voted to keep in place four crosses displayed at the county courthouse after an organization advocating for the separation of church and state urged their removal in a letter. The San Jacinto County Commission’s unanimous vote last week may lead to litigation over the Christian display, which is apparently brightly lit during the Christmas season.
Residents of the community packed the commission meeting and offered some troublesome, if expected, defenses of what FFRF calls an “unabashed…government endorsement of Christianity.” Click2Houston reports:
“If it offends them, close your eyes when you go by,” David Blevins said. “If you don’t like it, don’t look at it.”
“You have the right to honor the cross and you have the right to not honor the cross,” Robin Blevins said. “That cross isn’t hurting anybody. It’s to benefit those who believe.”
Of course, it’s not the cross that is perpetrating the harm here. In fact in many ways it is the cross – or more precisely what it represents – that is being harmed when government entangles itself with Christian symbolism. As Robin Blevins says above, everyone has the right to honor, or not to honor, the cross. But that does not mean that government – which should represent us all regardless of our faith – has the right to honor the cross.
Government has a constitutional responsibility to stay neutral in matters of religion. That mandate protects everyone. And it has the added benefit of making real an individual’s freedom to believe or not believe. After all, a faith that is wrapped in the arms of the state loses its vitality and prophetic voice. The true soul freedom to navigate matters of conscience and faith is undermined when the government is directing the traffic when it comes to religion.
The U.S. Supreme Court will soon weigh in on a government-sponsored cross in a very different setting from this courthouse display. Oral arguments in the Bladensburg Memorial Cross case took place in February. A ruling is expected by the end of June.