Here is a description of the seal of Los Angeles County.
There are six small panels, three going up and down each side of the seal's central figure.
Top left: engineering instruments.
Middle left: a Spanish galleon.
Bottom left: a tuna representing the fishing industry.
Top right: oil derricks.
Middle right: the Hollywood Bowl, along with two stars representing the movie industry and one small cross.
Bottom right: a prize cow.
The central figure, the largest object on the seal: Pomona, the Roman goddess of gardens and fruit trees.
Anything disturb you enough to demand that the seal be redesigned?
Probably not. For the overwhelming majority of millions of citizens of Los Angeles County over the past 50 years, this seal has aroused no opposition. But a few months ago, someone with a magnifying glass at the American Civil Liberties Union discovered that the smallest item on the seal was a cross. And in its aim to expunge any trace of Christianity and God from American public life, the ACLU brought this fact to the attention of the five Los Angeles County supervisors. The three liberals on the board were equally horrified, and voted within days to erase the cross and redesign the seal, which now depicts a building with no Christian symbol in place of the cross.
When I learned of the impending vote of the county supervisors, I asked Los Angeles listeners to my national radio show to join me in a protest at this rewriting of Los Angeles County history. Which is what it was -- in the official words of the county, the cross represented "the influence of the church and the missions of California." Los Angeles was founded by Catholics who also gave the county its Christian name.
About 2,000 people showed up on a workday morning, many of them non-Christians, including atheists, Buddhists, and a fair number of Jews, including non-Orthodox Jews and Orthodox Jews wearing yarmulkes. It was probably the first time in history that Jews have banded to protect the Christian cross. It is an achievement of which the ACLU should be proud. Its devotion to secularizing what has always been a Judeo-Christian society is helping to unite Judeo and Christian as nothing ever before has.
The ACLU and its three allies -- Supervisors Gloria Molina, Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, and Zev Yaroslavsky -- probably did not know what a whirlwind they would stir among the majority of people living in Los Angeles County, whatever their race, ethnicity or religion. Like most people on the Left, they dismissed opposition to erasing God and Christianity from the public square as the work of a fanatical fringe of Christians. Perhaps the recent presidential election is beginning to make them aware that at least statistically speaking, it is they, the aggressively secular, who are the fringe group.
I am asked why, as a Jew, I have led this fight to keep the cross on the county seal.
I have three responses.
First, I fear those who rewrite history.
As I noted in a previous column on this subject, when I was a graduate student at Columbia University's Russian Institute, I learned that a major characteristic of totalitarian regimes is their rewriting of history. As a famous Soviet dissident joke put it: "In the Soviet Union, the future is known; it's the past which is always changing." Given the relationship between changing the past and totalitarianism, those who love liberty ought to be frightened by the ACLU and the Board of Supervisors.
Second, I fear intolerance. And the move to expunge the singular Christian contribution to an American county and city is intolerant to the point of bigotry. No religious Christians, despite their deep opposition to paganism, ever objected to the pagan goddess that is many times larger than the cross. I have found over and over that most Christians who preach faith are more tolerant than most leftists who preach tolerance.
Third, and most important, I fear the removal of the Judeo-Christian foundation of our society. This is the real battle of our time, indeed the civil war of our time. The Left wants America to become secular like Western Europe, not remain the Judeo-Christian country it has always been. But unlike the Left, I do not admire France and Belgium and Sweden. And that is what the battle over the seal of America's most populous county is ultimately about. It is not about separation of church and state. It is about separation of a county from its history. And it is about separation of America from its moral foundations.
In 1834, 99 years before Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came to power, the great German poet Heinrich Heine, a secular Jew, predicted what would happen if Christianity ever weakened in Germany:
A drama will be enacted in Germany compared to which the French Revolution will seem like a harmless walk in the park. Christianity restrained the marshal ardor of the Germans for a time, but it did not destroy it; once the restraining guard is shattered, savagery will rise again . . . the mad fury of the berserk of which Nordic poets sing and speak.
That is what this American, this Jew, and millions of others believe is at stake in the Left's attempt to impose a redesign of the Los Angeles County seal and thereby redesign America.