Friday, August 13, 2010

Illinois Pays $20k to Restore Giant Cross

According to an article on Yahoo news, an atheist is suing the state of Illinois over a $20,000 grant given to restore an 11-story cross monument known as the Bald Knob Cross of Peace (kind of suggestive, isn't it?). Using taxpayer money for a clearly sectarian purpose is unconstitutional, no matter how you spin it, but what really stood out to me was a comment by the monument's administrator and local pastor, Steve McKeown.

"What [the plaintiff] wants is a United States that's free from religion. Our founding fathers never meant that to be the case."

McKeown is partly right - the founding fathers did not want a United States free from religion, but what they did want was a government free from religion. This is not a lawsuit against the cross or Christianity, as McKeown deceptively tries to portray it, but this is a lawsuit against government showing favor to religion, and the founders were very clear in their denouncement of just such a thing. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," the first amendment states. Giving $20,000 of taxpayer money to restore a giant cross is most certainly violating this clause.

It never ceases to amaze me how little understanding or regard some Christians seem to have for separation of church and state. Imagine how irate believers would be if the mosque proposed at Ground Zero in New York City was also accompanied by a $20,000 grant from the state! This is why religion and government must be kept separate, because if we can't accommodate them all (and no, we can't do that), then the only reasonable course is to take a neutral/secular position. Not to mention that taxpayers generally don't like their money being put to uses they disagree with.

Whatever happened to a good ol' fashioned church bake sale, by the way? Religion is great at fundraisers (pass around that collection plate one more time, Billy!), so let them finance their own restoration projects for their own religious monuments.

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