The Steubenville city fathers caved in, and removed the offending pictorial cross from the city seal and stationery. The Freedom From Religion Foundation had complained that the historical depiction of the chapel and cross on the city's official logo was oppressive and exclusionary. Their exact words are: “Steubenville is a theocracy and is a Christian city where non-Christians are not favored citizens. The city may not depict the university chapel and cross, because to do so places the city's imprimatur behind Christianity. This excludes non-Christians and violates the Constitution.” Steubenville officials had attempted to argue, quite logically, that the depiction was historical and that the Christian nature of the depiction was secondary and insignificant. But they were shouted down, and that argument has met with mixed success nationwide.
The anti-Christians would undoubtedly like to remove the cross from the physical chapel itself, but since it is on private land owned by the Catholic Church, that isn't going to happen for a few years yet. The secularist removal of all things Christian has been a slow but growing movement, with more success than it deserves. So far, they have succeeded in removing clearly Christian symbols and monuments from land which is indisputably public land. Their success in removing even historical depictions of Christian landmarks on public documents is still in its early stages.
California has, of course, led the way in the attacks on Christian symbols appearing in anything official from the cities and counties. The depiction of an historical California mission on the official logo of the City of Los Angeles was altered to remove the cross. But it was a very small depiction on the logo to start with, so it wasn't immediately obvious to anyone viewing the change. The change in the prominent depiction in the seal of the County of Los Angeles is much more apparent.
In 2004, the ACLU took up the cause of the secularists and filed suit against the depiction of the cross on the seal. Historical preservationists argued that it could be replaced by a depiction of an historic Los Angeles Catholic mission (either San Gabriel or San Fernando) complete with cross as an integral part of the depiction of the building. What they finally got was a stylized depiction of a California mission building with no cross. Note the unidentifiable old Spanish-era building which replaced the stylized Hollywood Bowl and cross.
The introductory illustration (top of the page) is the Mt. Soledad Memorial Cross. It came under attack in the 90s. There has been litigation ever since. Located in San Diego, the cross was erected as a tribute to fallen soldiers. In fact it was first constructed in 1913 by veterans and was called “The Veterans Memorial.” Non-Christians managed to live their lives in the shadow of the memorial for nearly eighty years before anti-Christian forces determined that the cross was an official government endorsement of oppressive Christianity.
Seeing the writing on the wall, the City of San Diego sold the property to the private non-profit Mt. Soledad Memorial Association in 1998 which converted the land to a specifically Korean War memorial. That wasn't good enough for the ACLU, which complained that the land wasn't offered for public sale to all comers. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, and the case went to the United States Supreme Court which just recently refused to hear the case. Negotiations are still ongoing based on the Ninth Circuit findings, but the cross is in serious danger of being removed permanently to satisfy the tender sensibilities of the non-religious. The Supreme Court might yet have to rule one way or the other, since its ruling (per Justice Scalia) was that negotiations subject to the Ninth Circuit ruling were still in process, and therefore the case was not yet ripe for a full Supreme Court hearing.
A somewhat different result occurred up north in San Francisco. The Mt. Davidson cross was first erected in 1923 on the highest point in San Francisco. It was destroyed and rebuilt, bigger each time, until it became the tallest free-standing cross in America. The land was originally owned by the prominent Sutro family, but was deeded over to the city after the first cross was erected for “public purposes.” It is lighted one day a year—Easter. The first lighting occurred when President Franklin D. Roosevelt threw a “golden switch” in Washington, DC.
But Christian oppression symbolized on public land is a no-no according to the ACLU, the American Jewish Congress, and the omnipresent Americans United for Separation of Church and State. As the lawsuits proceeded, the unthinkable happened. Proposition F was placed on the San Francisco ballot demanding retention of the cross. 68% (yes, you read that right) of the San Francisco population voted to retain the cross and to complete the pending sale of the cross and adjacent land to the Armenian-American Council of Organizations of Northern California. This time, unlike San Diego, it worked, because the city had put up the land for open bids, all comers. The Ninth Circuit confirmed the legitimacy of the sale. The Armenians purchased the cross and the land to convert it to a memorial to Armenians massacred in Turkey. Needless to say, the Turkish community was not happy.
Even the California deserts are not immune. A small cross on a low hill in the Mojave Desert was erected on private land in 1934 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. In 1994, the land became part of the Mojave National Preserve and it was time for the lawsuits to begin. It got very silly. At one point, a wooden structure was built around the cross to prevent the sensitive from viewing it while the litigation was pending. That same year, Congress recognized the ongoing attack on historical but religious symbols on public land, and created the Land Transfer Act, designed to grant more land elsewhere in exchange for private ownership of less land where the historical/religious item was located.
Naturally, the ACLU and its anti-religious allies filed suit to stop the land transfer back to the VFW and to void the Land Transfer Act. Their argument was that even after transferring the land to a private organization, its presence in the midst of federal land “implied” government ownership. Even liberal Justice Elena Kagan found that argument specious, and voted with four other justices to uphold the Act and allow the cross to remain. The Court ruled that destruction of historical but religious objects versus historical preservation had created a “dilemma” which the Land Transfer Act solved.
So, it's win a few, lose a few. And here endeth the lesson for Sunday, August 5, 2012 AD (in the year of our Lord).