Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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The Wren cross revisited

A lot of (virtual) ink has been spilled since I last posted on the subject. The Power Line guys have weighed in, more than once, as has the Friar.

The most recent longer piece can be found in The Weekly Standard; it calls attention to W & M President Gene Nichol’s connections with the ACLU, which are reflected in the insider/outsider language he has used. (Of course, what the TWS authors don’t note is that the ACLU uses the language because, thanks to Sandra Day O’Connor, the Supreme Court uses it. O’Connor’s was a bad idea whose time had come.) The TWS authors also note that given the plethora of public crosses all over the state of Virginia (reflecting its heritage, as they note), the stature of the Wren Cross dispute is far greater than its mere eighteen inches.

I suppose I think it laudable that Nichol has called for a campus committee to examine "the role of religion in public universities in general, and at the College of William and Mary in particular." Will it be a rubber stamp, or will it provide him cover as he backs down? I can only hope that the committee does its job well and honestly, and have no reason at the moment to think that it won’t, especially given the publicity that this controversy has generated.

Update: I swear I hadn’t seen this piece, by Newt Gingrich and Christopher Levenick, when I wrote about the malign influence of Sandra Day O’Connor at W & M. It’s worse than I thought: she’s the new Chancellor at W & M.

Discussions - 11 Comments

Well, then why don’t we tear down the minarets at various college campus mosques? They are a symbol to me of the Muslim faith which I do not follow. Oh wait, that makes me anti-Muslim, doesn’t it? (and before anyone jumps on that wagon, that is said tongue-in-cheek).

But let’s not stop there. Maybe the cosmetic industry should begin producing various shades of gray foundations, haircolors, etc., that we are all required to use so that we all look more alike. Oh, and let’s establish a universal language (Pig latin perhaps?) because we all know that it’s too difficult to establish English as a national language in this country (despite the ability of the Europeans to establish a national language in their various countries). Uniforms. That’s it - everyone must begin wearing uniforms - all the same - no individuality - gray ones.

God forbid (ooooh, I’m in trouble now) that anybody with a brain in their head and the common sense He gave them (yep, I’ve crossed the line) should ever pay homage to those first Americans (fleeing oppression, tyranny and demand for religious conformity) who brought to this continent various cultures, languages, dress, and yes, religious beliefs. "Separation of church and state" as abused as it is, does NOT fall here...

This part of the NRO piece on Breyer is interesting:



"Those who needlessly disturb the peace are thus at direct odds with its purpose; tearing down long-established religious symbols is therefore as unacceptable as needlessly erecting new ones."


Does is not demonstrate tolerance on W&M part that they admit students from many faiths and do not force them into chapel? A college may, it seems to me, keep its identity (in this case Anglican, though they are doing keeping that heritage only tangentially), while also being tolerant of others.

Both the Standard and the NRO piece are very strong. The key to understand the real signficance of someone like Sandra Day is to ponder the chaos her opinions have and will continue to unleash upon our poor democratic society w/ her good intentions and moderation-so-called. Let us not even consider the horror of her abortion decisions here. The day the chapel is refurbished/desecrated so as to remove all Christian content, and the day the Soledad cross is dynamited, are the days when this woman’s true significance will be plain. Those days are far more likely to arrive than not. She could have averted great division/pain/confusion, and she chose not to. She chose not to believe that the ACLU was as messed up as the conservatives said, b/c, well, it was conservatives who said it. She had the time, the duty, the education to read widely, to consider deeply. And now we are about to reap the fruits of her irresponsibility.

So, who’s on board for a Giuliani presidency? Yeah, I know what he’s said about Alito and Roberts. But unlike Bush, whose feet could be held to the fire on Miers, G. may well have to govern from the center, and satisfy a centrist constiuency. And the elites define O’Connorism (on a host of issues) as centrism, judicially speaking. G. simply HAS to sign a Contract with Conservatives that is DETAILED on judicial philosophy especially, before real conservatives can even think about supporting him. You don’t have to be a social or religious conservative to see that another generation of O’Connorism ruling the court will implant irremovable poison into the American nation.

3: Good comments. A contract between Rudy and conservatives on judicial philsophy (and other appointments) is a good idea. It has to be worded, and done, very, very carefully or it will politically weaken every conservative appointment he makes. But it may be doable.

Erik,

I’m betting that the reference to Breyer follows from his opinion in Van Orden v. Perry, where he basically said that old unchallenged "religious" displays pass his smell test:

As far as I can tell, 40 years passed in which the presence of this monument, legally speaking, went unchallenged (until the single legal objection raised by petitioner). And I am not aware of any evidence suggesting that this was due to a climate of intimidation. Hence, those 40 years suggest more strongly than can any set of formulaic tests that few individuals, whatever their system of beliefs, are likely to have understood the monument as amounting, in any significantly detrimental way, to a government effort to favor a particular religious sect, primarily to promote religion over nonreligion, to "engage in" any "religious practic[e]," to "compel" any "religious practic[e]," or to "work deterrence" of any "religious belief."

While there are some caveats he would add (as the inheritor of O’Connor’s role as the mushy one in the middle), this line of argument could be deployed on behalf of the Wren cross. of course, the price to be paid in the O’Connor/Breyer world is that the cross can’t be understood to convey a primarily religious message. Which is hard to believe about a cross in a chapel. But doesn’t the word "chapel" itself convey to non-believers that they’re outsiders? So shouldn’t President Nichol, if he’s to be a consistent O’Connorian (perhaps a contradiction in terms), relabel the chapel? Anyone have a suggestion as to what inclusive and welcoming term could be applied to this space?

Joe, this is said a bit tongue in cheek but I think there’s an idea in there: can’t it be retained and called "a chapel" as long as its the church of democratic pluralism?

Joe, I have a suggestion from the Oxford English Dictionary. It is a colloquial definition (#11) of "chapel" that would seem to fit, if a chapel can not longer be considered a place of Christian worship: House of ease. That sounds inclusive and welcoming to me.

And on the altar of the "House of Ease" or "Chapel of Democratic Pluaralism" what do we find?

Actually, I think there is no altar at all, but suspended in air, a garguantuan bank of television screens, shaped into sphere, like a great multicolored disco ball. And there are no bibles in this chapel, nor any books at all, only channel-changers, and head-phones. You can sing if you want, indeed you can do anything, but no-one is likely to hear you.

Perhaps a mirror, so that each of us can worship himself or herself.

I can hear the song now: "...I lift my name on High...I love to sing my praises..."

Erik, that’s the Unitarian version of that song.

Joe, the modern House of Ease always has a mirror. In our version, or perversion, it would facilitate modern self-reflection and not the sort of reflection that probably made for that old slang usage of the term, chapel.


Carl Scott, polite people do not discuss the altar present in a house of ease.

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