Personal gravestones are the choice of the family members, not the choice of the government.cross was not a headstone, it was not in a cemetery, and it was not situated on federal property.
The issue involved is whether such displays violate the first amendment’s “establishment clause” prohibition against the government’s making any “law respecting an establishment of religion.” Civil liberties groups have generally maintained that symbols which serve purely religious purposes (rather than historical or other secular purposes) or represent one particular religion to the exclusion of others violate the establishment clause when they are displayed on property which is owned by the state or maintained with public (i.e., tax-derived) funds.
Some messages just need to be forwarded and this is most certainly one of them. Some recent examples of these objects of contention include an iron cross in California’s Mojave National Preserve, a monument to the Ten Commandments in Alabama’s state judicial building, an illuminated cross in a southern California city park, and a steel-beam cross proposed for inclusion in a World Trade Center memorial.
The state has no role or authority in defining beliefs relating to God and worship. The state is neutral between particular religions and permits citizens to believe or not believe in God and to engage or not engage in religious practices or belong to religious organizations according to the dictates of their conscience. Incarnate in our history is a kind of "civil religion" (Robert Bellah) that finds expression in our founding documents, our coins, speeches of presidents, the pledge of allegiance, and so on.
This "religion of the Republic" (Sidney Mead) cannot be defined precisely and has no official status, but it has been operative in the national life from the beginning.
This "publick theology" (Benjamin Franklin) affirms the reality of God the Creator as the Author of certain human rights such as liberty and equality, gives a sacred dimension to national holidays such as the 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving, and defines a peculiar American duty and destiny under the providence of God.
These beliefs are independent of any particular historic religion or denomination, although they echo the sacred writings of Jews and Christians.
Gravestones in public cemeteries are not deemed to constitute a government endorsement of religion because they individually represent the private religious beliefs of the persons buried there, and those symbols are chosen by family members of the deceased and not the government (whereas a monument to a particular group represents members of that group collectively with a symbol chosen by others).
Accordingly, the ACLU has stated that it is not seeking to have cross-shaped headstones (or headstones bearing any other religious symbols) removed from the federal cemeteries wherein honored U. veterans are interred: The ACLU is not pursuing, nor has it ever pursued, the removal of religious symbols from personal gravestones.
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