John Leo

The “tiny cross” people at the American Civil Liberties Union are at it again. These are the folks with extra-keen eyes and powerful magnifying glasses, who examine the official seals of towns and counties, looking for miniature crosses that ACLU lawyers like to trumpet as grave threats to separation of church and state.

    This time around, the folks with the magnifying glasses are leaning on the village of Tijeras, New Mexico, whose seal contains a Conquistador’s helmet and sword, a scroll, a desert plant, a fairly large religious symbol (the native American zia) and a quite small Christian cross. “Tiny cross” inspectors are not permitted to fret about large non-Christian religious symbols, only undersized Christian ones, so the ACLU filed suit to get the cross removed.

    The cross is obviously not an endorsement of religion, any more than the Conquistador helmet and sword are endorsements of Spanish warfare. The courts have ruled, not always consistently, that crosses, as historic references in such seals and logos, are permissible. But the ACLU, these days, is strongly committed to seeing church-state crises everywhere, and thus pushes things way too far.

     Last year the ACLU demanded that Los Angeles County eliminate from its seal a microscopic cross representing the missions that settled the state of California. Under threat of expensive litigation, the county complied. The cross was about one-sixth the size, of a not-very-big image, of a cow tucked away on the lower right segment of the seal, and maybe one one-hundredth the size of a pagan god (Pomona, Goddess of Fruit) who dominated the seal. Pomona survived the religious purge. She is not the sort of god that the ACLU worries about, whereas the flyspeck-sized cross was a threat to unravel separation of church and state, as we know it. What will happen if the ACLU learns that Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Sacramento, San Francisco, St. Louis and Corpus Christi actually have religious names?  We shudder to think.

    The campaign to remove all traces of religion from public institutions, and in fact from the entire public square, is now far advanced. Part of that extremist campaign is to squelch private expression in and around public schools. Students have been punished for reading the Bible outside of class, for assembling after school to talk about religion, for thanking God or Jesus in a valedictory speech, and for bowing their heads (and therefore presumed to be praying privately) before lunch.


John Leo

John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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