Monday, August 07, 2006

No Jesus in St. Bernard's

The Lousiana ACLU is upset over a memorial to be erected in St. Bernard's parish in remembrance of those who lost their lives to Katrina. The monument will apparently feature the face of Jesus Christ.

The legal issues are going to turn on whether this is a private or government sponsored undertaking, although, in my view, they should not. This ought not to be considered an establishment of religion, no matter how involved the government may be. While it may offend the sensitive, it neither coerces nor meaningfully abridges religious pluralism.

Regrettably, that is not the law, although the Shark has just about finished a law review article explaining why it should be.

H/T: Religion Clause blog.


Anonymous said...

While I agree that it's a stretch to call things like this an "establishment" of religion, I'm also not enthusiastic about my tax dollars being used to promote any single religion.

Amy said...

And I'm not excited with *my* tax dollars going to fund "artistic" projects that include a crucifix soaked in urine or a dung-splattered Virgin Mary. But nothing is going to be done about that.

I don't doubt that the ACLU would be up-in-arms if this wasn't tax-payer funded, but merely placed on public property. Because they don't seem to understand that "free expression" of religion means religious images can actually be shown in public.

David Casper said...

This is particularly interesting considering Louisiana is the only state in the Union not to have counties but rather parishes based upon how the Church broke down jurisdictions.

How long before those are challenged?

Anonymous said...

Of course it's an establisment of religion. Would people say it wasn't an establishment of religion if the statue was to have an image of Moses, or a non-pictorial image of Mohammed? All you goofballs out there, don't go off on the Mohammed/image issue: just answer the question? How would you feel with an identifiable image that was referencing Judiasm, Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism, or a Native American diety?

David Casper said...


You need to put this into perspective.

Louisiana is a deeply Christian state, as exemplified by the use of parishes as opposed to counties. In all liklihood, each of the victims was Christian. Furthermore, it would seem that any of their surviving family members would take issue with the Christian symbolism were it not appropriate long before the ACLU did.

Let's say a natural tragedy hit a highly Muslim part of Detroit. If all the victims were Muslim and a monument were to be erected on a private piece of land financed by private donations (as is the case here), I would have no problem with a non-pictoral image of Mohammed being incorporated into it. After all, it would only be appropriate to honor the beliefs the lost and how they perceive the "great beyond."

Remember, it's freedom of religion, not freedom from. It's ludicrous to interpret the First Amendment as something that simply protects the easily offended.

And before you go forth and call me a "goofball," take note that I'm a very non-religious person. But I tend to respect religious beliefs rather than detest them.

Anonymous said...

Anon, here again;

Leave aside your guesswork about whether the victims were all Christian. It's not the government's role to pay for these things. The government's money comes from everyone.

Even if Louisiana is a deeply Christian state, meaning many of its residents worship Christ - - in their churches, and through their personal and familial lives.

Louisiana is a state, not a theocratic entity. Why must you want or support the public display, with common dollars, of one faith. Because it's the majority sentiment? The Constitution protects minority thought and faith precisely to protect everyone from tyrannies in the name of majoritarianism, well-intended or not: that's what people who fled Europe wanted to leave behind.

Anonymous said...


The monument is to be placed on private land paid for by private donations. The ACLU's complaint is the proximity of this private land to a major public waterway. The dispute is over whether the land is truly private because of erosion (it's a pretty complex issue). If the land is indeed private, does one who is traveling on a public waterway have the right to not be "offended" because they pass a religious monument on private land? Could we then ban people from placing religious symbols on their lawns if it is visible from a major roadway? In addition,this hardly constitutes the government passing a law to establish a religion.

Rick Esenberg said...

Amy's point about the use of tax dollars to support irreligion is on the mark. Casper's common sense assessment of the value of a Christian monument here is as well. What Anonymous fails to explain is what real harm this does to minority faiths.

As always, the Reddess' insight dazzles. But, even putting aside my bias, she makes a great point - and one that I did not make. My academic argument was that it shouldn't even matter if public money or land is used. She is right to point out that neither are - or, at least, perhaps not with respect to the land.

I never imagined that the girl that I married would be speaking in public about riparian rights.

What have I done?