The Sept. 23 front-page article “The fallen 49 behind the Peace Cross” made the Bladensburg cross dispute about memorializing the fallen World War I veterans. It is not. The dispute is about using the memory of these veterans to promote the Christian religion over all others, in clear violation of the First Amendment. To imagine how offensive this cross is to those of us not of the Christian faith, just picture how upset most people would be if the cross were replaced by a Jewish Star of David or a Muslim star and crescent moon. The obvious solution here is to turn the cross into a nondenominational obelisk honoring the veterans, as was suggested by a member of the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.
Alex Hershaft, Bethesda
“What if I don’t sign on to payroll deductions for bonds and contributions?” I wondered. As a new Internal Revenue Service employee, I was making $5,200 annually with a wife and baby to support. “Your choice,” my supervisor replied. “However, think about it as an investment in your future. Are we more apt to promote someone who is a team player? We view participation in United States Savings Bonds and the combined federal campaign as demonstrating employee morale.”
Which leads me to the Peace Cross memorial that resides on government land and is maintained through government funds. After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit decided it violates the Constitution’s First Amendment, this decision might be considered by the Supreme Court.
While sympathetic to the poor and distressed, I didn’t like being coerced. Similarly, I appreciate the underlying motive to honor World War I soldiers — and, by extension, all soldiers who died in combat for the United States — through a public monument. However, government involvement in promoting a religious symbol makes me uncomfortable because it feels coercive.
Surely, the monument and its maintenance might be transferred to a patriotic organization. While I stopped participating in U.S. Savings Bonds because they were a poor investment, I never sacrificed charities over my pique at being strong-armed.
Marvin Friedlander, Fairfax