When ‘Progressive’ Censorship Strikes
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published April 3, 2016 by The Washington Times.
Horror of horrors.
A large cross commemorating the landing by Spanish explorers in Monterey, California in 1769 was back at Del Monte Beach, erected anonymously over Easter weekend.
For a few tense days, vampires and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyers knew to avoid the area, while families took Easter pictures in front of the cross.
But last Tuesday, beachgoers discovered the cross missing, the victim not of hooligans but of a city crew that was ordered to tear it down earlier that morning before progressive legal sharks even began circling.
In 2009, vandals had cut down a 20-foot redwood cross that the city of Monterey erected in 1969 as part of its 200th anniversary celebration of the Spanish expedition led by Don Caspar de Portol and Father Juan Crespi. City officials had moved quickly to replace it, but were stopped by the ACLU’s threat of a costly lawsuit.
Although the cross was a historic marker, the ACLU argued that its presence on a public beach violated the “wall of separation” between church and state. So the cross was moved to the Roman Catholic Church’s San Carlos Cemetery in central Monterey, which adjoins the second California mission founded by Father Junipero Serra.
Just before this past Easter Sunday, however, a steel version of the Portola-Crespi cross suddenly appeared on the beach in the same spot where the original was cut down back in 2009, according to KSBW.com. It was a rare departure from current trends.
“The new cross comes after a number of religion-related acts of vandalism have occurred on the Monterey Peninsula, including the destruction of statues at the Carmel mission and a statue of Saint Junipero Serra at the Presidio,” the station reported.
Father Serra, along with the nation’s Founding Fathers, Woodrow Wilson, and anything labeled Confederate, is the latest historical figure to run afoul of the folks who would be right at home in the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s “1984.” In that 1949 novel, protagonist Winston Smith works in the Ministry’s Records Department, replacing historical documents with lies to fit the totalitarian regime’s latest party line.
Over the years, the ACLU has worked tirelessly to erase history by litigating to remove Ten Commandments monuments, public Christmas observances and even large crosses in veterans’ cemeteries, including the 29-foot Mt. Soledad cross on a mountain above San Diego and a seven-foot pipe-metal cross in the Mojave National Preserve.
The current Mt. Soledad cross, part of a memorial to Korean War veterans, was erected in 1954. For years, it’s been the focus of a legal war involving the ACLU, veterans groups, Congress, and even the White House.
In 2014, Congress authorized the Defense secretary to convey ownership of the property to the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial Association, which purchased the half acre in July 2015. The cross is still there, but the ACLU is undoubtedly sharpening its legal ax for more whacks.
As for the Mojave cross, it became the perfect symbol of progressive censorship when park officials covered it in plywood in 2010 after former National Park Service employee Frank Buono, an ACLU member, sued to have it torn down. Mr. Buono had moved hundreds of miles away to Oregon, but no matter. He said he visited the Preserve occasionally and the cross offended him.
First erected in 1934 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars to honor World War I dead, the cross on Sunrise Rock was replaced in 1998. In 2002, Congress transferred ownership of a one-acre parcel with the cross to the VFW to maintain as a war memorial.
In 2010, after the Supreme Court ruled in Salazar v. Buono that the cross could stay and remanded the case to a lower court, vandals tore it down. Another one mysteriously arose 10 days later, but park officials removed it. Finally, the current cross was dedicated on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2012.
Meanwhile, the ACLU has apparently moved on to other targets.
Which brings us back to this past week’s dustup in Monterey. The ACLU won this one without firing a shot. Toeing the progressive interpretation of the First Amendment, City manager Mike McCarthy explained to a reporter that “it is appropriate not to allow a cross on city property.”
What a difference a few years of relentless attacks makes.
With easy victories like this, how long will it be before the ACLU’s Ministry of Truth tries to further cleanse America of its Christian heritage by forcing cities like San Francisco, which honors the memory of St. Francis of Assisi, to change their names?