Los Angeles County Supervisors decided to turn tail and run rather than fight a lawsuit threatened by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Why such weak-kneed response? Because lawyers for the county ominously warned that the county might lose the case and have to pay the ACLU's attorney's fees.
The ACLU is demanding that the county remove a tiny cross from its seal, one of nearly a dozen symbols it portrays. One need only look at the seal to see just how ridiculous is the ACLU's demand.
A third of the seal and the centerpiece is the Greek goddess Pomona standing on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. The ACLU doesn't object to her; portrayals of pagan goddesses are OK.
Six side sections of the seal depict historical motifs: the Spanish galleon San Salvador, a tuna fish, a cow, the Hollywood Bowl, two stars representing the movie and television industries, oil derricks and a couple of engineering instruments that signify industrial construction and space exploration. The cross is so tiny that it doesn't even have its own section and consumes maybe 2 percent of the seal's space.
Removing the cross is a blatant attempt to erase history, to drop it down the "memory hole" as George Orwell would say. It is just as reasonable to recognize the historical fact that California was settled by Christians who built missions all over the state as it is to honor the Spanish ship, the San Salvador, which sailed into San Pedro Harbor on Oct. 8, 1542.
The reason that the Los Angeles County seal is such a big deal is not because it is a violation of the First Amendment. It is because there is a pot of gold hidden under it attracting the ACLU like honey attracts bees.
A little-known 1976 federal law called the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act enables the ACLU to collect attorneys' fees for its suits against crosses, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Ten Commandments.
This law was designed to help plaintiffs in civil rights cases. But the ACLU is using it for First Amendment cases, asserting that it is a civil right NOT to see a cross or the Ten Commandments.
The financial lure created by this law is the engine that drives dozens of similar cases nationwide. Every state, county, city, public park or school that has a cross, a Ten Commandments monument, or recites the Pledge of Allegiance, has become a target for ACLU fundraising.
There are thousands of Ten Commandments plaques or monuments all over the country, and lawsuits to remove them have popped up in more than a dozen states. In Utah, the ACLU even announced a scavenger hunt with a prize for anyone who could find another Ten Commandments monument that the ACLU could persuade an activist judge to remove.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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