The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging Camp Pendleton, a major Marine Corps base near San Diego, to remove a Christian cross on top of a hill in the Camp Horno area.
A small group of people, including a military chaplain, erected the 13-foot cross on the hill inside the Camp Pendleton as the nation observed Veterans Day. The Marines carried the cumbersome cross up the hill to honor four Marines of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, who were killed in combat in Iraq from 2004 to 2007.
The cross replaced one put on the hill in 2003 by three of the four fallen Marines before they deployed to Iraq. The original cross was destroyed by a brush fire.
Because the cross was erected on public property, FFRF claims it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another.
“To comply with constitutional dictates it is necessary to immediately remove the cross from Camp Pendleton property, or direct that the display be immediately moved to an appropriate private location,” FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote to Commanding Officer Col. Nicholas Marano.
“No court of final resort has ever upheld the government’s permanent display of a Latin cross on public land as constitutional,” wrote Gaylor who added that “the Latin cross stands for Christianity and the overall display promotes Christianity.”
According to a 2010 Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers study, nearly 23 percent of military personnel identified as atheist, agnostic or had no religious preference.
“It is unlawful for the Camp Pendleton to display a patently religious symbol such as a Christian cross on public property. It conveys the message to the twenty-six percent of the U.S. population who are not Christians that they are not ‘favored members of the political community,’” noted Gaylor.
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