Dear Readers: A reason I became a Catholic was because of my involvement with Tea Party activism: I wanted to keep grounded (when people praised me for my golden punditry) AND I wanted to be strengthened (when I was insulted for those same views). While some Catholics seem convinced that citizens speaking passionately and critically about government policies “inspires violence”, I wanted to share an experience I had this week that demonstrates quite the opposite. This example will also show:
1) How truly vast the “big tent” is for social views among Tea Party participants.
2) Where faith and the US Constitution intersect, how the faithful can engage others among Tea Party members for support.
This week, several of the members of our Tea Party group have promoted today’s rally in support of the Mt. Soledad Cross in La Jolla, California. In a nut-shell: an atheist, attention-seeking, whiner has tried to destroy a cross that is prominently posted on top of a coastal hill. Since 1991, the cross has been the focus of legal wrangling, judicial activism, and “separation of church and state” histrionics.I believe that our Founding Fathers would have detested the vile reasoning being used against this beautiful landmark; a Hot Air post on another matter expresses my reason for this belief quite eloquently:
…. but the majority of the Founding Fathers were religious. And those who weren’t orthodox in their beliefs, at least had a healthy respect and appreciation for religion. They didn’t want to force others to believe as they did – certainly – but they respected religion, and the Bible, nonetheless. Even those more critical, such as Thomas Jefferson, believed the Bible contained important lessons – lessons wise men should take to heart. There may have been a few, like Thomas Paine, who held religion in less high esteem, but they were the minority, not the majority.
In the course of dialoging with my Tea Party blogging compatriots about meeting up, or newest team member — a thoughtful young writer whose essays are exceptional — chimed in about the post-rally lunch: Definitely not in for the Mt. Soledad rally. Separation of church and tea party pls.
This event was not a Tea Party, which I think should focus on fair and free markets, small government, constitutional principles, and sound financial policy. However, there are strong reasons to mention it to our many participants. This event pertains to the First Amendment and is a great example of the legal abuses that have been allowed to go unchecked, which create a tyranny of the minority. Furthermore, as a Catholic, I felt compelled to respond, to make a case for treating faith matters with respect (even though another may not be a believer). I prayed for St. Anthony’s intersession, so my words would reflect respectful disagreement and an honest attempt to persuade. So, I wrote back:
…a number of our SCTRC membership think that the Mt. Soledad cross is a First Amendment issue item — so, the interpretation of the US Constitution is a focus of this event. I also firmly believe our Founding Fathers would be ill, knowing the US Constitution was going to be used to desecrate a memorial dedicated to men who died for this country.
Sarah (Bond) made such a point in the SCTRC email – “As the non-Christian co-founder of SoCalTRC, I wholeheartedly disagree with this ruling. It is the final act of respect that we allow our warriors and fallen to be remembered in the shadow of the faith that provided them the strength to protect our freedoms during the most harrowing of circumstances.”
(Note – SCTRC is our local Tea Party band):
To be honest, I don’t much care for Ayn Rand. I tried to read “Atlas Shrugged”. I lasted three pages, as I found her work souless. My Randian-Objectivist compatriot responded with the classic “separation of church and state” argument — all theoretical, not based on the realities of the feelings and spirit of those honored by the Mt. Soledad cross. Sarah (another co-founder of our Tea Party group) then added details and background:
In 1994 the city of San Diego tried to sell the monument to the Mount Soledad Association so that it would be under the ownership and control of a private organization. In 1997, a judge halted the transaction and said that it violated the California State Constitution: “the City’s attempt to comply with this Court’s order by selling only a small portion of the land underneath the Mount Soledad cross still shows a preference or aid to the Christian religion.”
The City tried to sell the land (a larger portion) again in 1998 and the same judge allowed the sale to the Mount Soledad Association for $106,000. Then the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found the sale to be a violation of the California State Constitution on the grounds that government cannot afford “any financial advantage or subsidy to religion.”
Then the Mt. Soledad Association agreed to a settlement where they would remove the cross, gain ownership of the property, and then rebuild the cross. But the City of San Diego would not agree to this settlement.
Then in 2004 the city put it out to the voters as Prop K to allow the sale of the land. But the voters rejected the measure, in large part to not understanding the terms.
In 2005 there was another initiative put to the voters to transfer the property to the Interior Department as a veterans memorial. This time the measure passed.
The results of the election were thrown out on the grounds that the intention was to preserve the Christian symbol, not honor Veterans (regardless of the $900,000 in veteran memorials added to the property). The removal of the cross was ordered.
In 2006 the federal government used Eminent Domain to take ownership of the land to reinforce the function of the property as a veterans memorial.
In 2006 the 4th District Court of Appeals ruled that the 2005 initiative was Constitutional. In 2007 the California Supreme Court affirmed the 4th district ruling.
In 2008 a Federal Judge ruled: “The Court finds the memorial at Mt. Soledad, including its Latin cross, communicates the primarily non-religious messages of military service, death and sacrifice. As such, despite its location on public land, the memorial is Constitutional.”
In 2009 the issue of separation of Church and State was brought to the 9th Circuit. And last month they ruled the cross to be unconstitutional.
At that point, my Rand-ophile friend understood the reasons for his compatriots’ support of the rally. I admire his openness, and that while he might still disagree, he obviously garnered a better understanding. As one of our libertarian friends put it: Today, the Mount Soledad cross. Tomorrow, let’s burn down all the California missions! This was a great example of the kind of discourse and debate that occurs amongst Americans at the Tea Party level. It is not fueled by “heated rhetoric”, but a desire to persuade, inspire, and promote the best ideas that will help the most Americans.
Getting back to Ayn Rand: I have been reading “Bad Catholic’s Guide to Seven Deadly Sins”, in which the author (John Zmirak) tags Rand as an icon of vanity. This was quite an eye-opener, as Rand is iconic among many in the Tea Party crowd. But I think Zmirak nails a reason why I do not find her work appealing: “Rand’s idea of autonomy of the individual is so autistic, so clinically isolated from any real, human knowledge of how people grow up in families and cultures, that it recalls the lab experiments with baby monkeys raised by wire mothers”. He also has a handy response to Randian theories regarding charity:
…Did you invent the English language? Did you develop Common Law, or write the Constitution that protects your cherished rights? Did you build up urban civilization, or invent the technology that let you live better than what man is by nature – a hunter-gatherer? I didn’t think so. It seems to me that you inherited a great deal of social capital that you did absolutely nothing to earn. So now it’s your time to pass along a little bit of the largesse you received, or else you really ought to strip naked and go hunt wildebeest in the savanna.
Zmirak writes for Inside Catholic, which I have now added to this site’s blogroll. It offers a conservative perspective on the news of the day, with a Catholic take on these matters. I hope to follow more of his writing.
I will post an update to this piece related to the outcome of today’s Mt. Soledad rally. This week I took a Tea Party look at Ayn Rand theorists. Next week, I face a bigger challenge – looking at the other end of the big-government involvement spectrum that is the result of misplaced compassion. That should be fun! 🙂
Please check back.