One might wonder why a number of Orthodox Jews, including me, felt compelled to attend a recent demonstration in downtown Los Angeles to protest the removal of a small cross on our county seal.
And yet, after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted last month to remove the cross from the seal, several of us realized that the stakes here were too high to ignore.
The ACLU had threatened to sue the county over the cross and the board of supervisors immediately buckled, voting to remove it from the seal.
Surprised by the public outcry over their vote, the supervisors called for another vote to consider a so-called “compromise” with the ACLU in which the cross on the seal – just one of a dozen various symbols of the region’s history – would be replaced by a crossless mission church. But as one observer noted, a mission without a cross just looks like a Taco Bell.
One step closer to being ‘Taco Bell County’
Despite a crowd of nearly 2,000 peaceful demonstrators, board members refused to change their vote, handing the ACLU another easy victory.
But almost immediately, the county was sued by the Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based public interest law firm, on behalf of a county employee, claiming that removing the cross from the seal is a government-sponsored action that sends a hostile message to Christians.
A congressional candidate is also gathering signatures to place the issue on the ballot. So while the ACLU seems to have won round one, the fight is far from over.
It seems to me things must be pretty slow at the ACLU if small crosses on county seals are the biggest threat to our national civil liberties they can find.
ACLU overlooks pagan goddess and KKK cross
The so-called civil rights organization is also patently hypocritical. They are not bothered by the image of the pagan goddess Pomona, a large figure on the county seal, and they are only selectively bothered by Christian symbols. How else can you explain their decision to represent the Ku Klux Klan in 1995, when they tried to erect a 6-foot cross in front of the Ohio Capitol building?
According to the ACLU, a tiny cross on a county seal reflective of the county’s history violates the separation of church and state, but an enormous cross put up by virulently racist Klansmen in front of a state capitol building is an expression of free speech. Got it?
Los Angeles was founded as a mission
Like it or not, Los Angeles was founded by Father Junipero Serra as a mission, making Christianity a central element in the county’s early history. For a group claiming to stand for free speech and civil liberties, eviscerating the truth of our history is unconscionable and smacks of totalitarianism.
At the demonstration, I was pleased to find several other Orthodox Jews, including my friend David. Like me, David came to show non-Jews that “many Jews appreciate the freedom that Christians in this country have granted to us.” Many people who noticed his yarmulke came over and thanked him for coming.
With a history of vicious anti-Semitism in nearly every country where Jews have lived, it has been hard for many Jews to accept that the uniquely tolerant brand of Christianity practiced in the United States today has given us the kind of freedom unprecedented anywhere in our dispersion.
Jews have rarely appealed to the Christian community in vain when we needed help with issues important to us, such as supporting Soviet Jewish immigration or fighting domestic anti-Semitism. Those of us who came to the demonstration just wanted to return the favor.
I am glad to have demonstrated to keep the cross, not only to preserve the truth of our history, but also because I’ve had enough of the tyranny of the ACLU.
This time, they’re after crosses. Can anybody doubt that next time it will be a star of David?
Judy Gruen’s latest book is “Till We Eat Again: Confessions of a Diet Dropout,” published by Champion Press. Visit her Web site at www.judygruen.com.