September 24, 2007

The cross on the firehouse.

Here's a firehouse in Brooklyn Heights:

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Establishment Clause violation?

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(If you need some case law to get started analyzing this, start here. If you need background on the cross found at Ground Zero, look here.)

19 comments:

MadisonMan said...

In the top picture, the cross looks at first glance like an airplane.

vet66 said...

Established case law notwithstanding, New York's finest lost many of their close knit family of coworkers and relatives on 9/11. They lose many of their coworkers in the line of duty because theirs is a dangerous job.

The cross is an expression of their quest for answers that give meaning to the deaths of their compatriots and those who swear to protect the rest of us.

Ann Althouse said...

vet66: Don't assume the case law doesn't include understanding of things like this.

vet66 said...

I don't trust case law. Crosses are under attack because of what they represent and case law can be changed or not enforced.

Our academic institutions regularly flaunt the Solomon ammendment by accepting federal funding and denying military recruiting and ROTC participation. They also pervert free speech on a regular basis making it applicable only to their ideology.

Your point is well taken and received. I enjoy going beyond case law and delve into the machinations of those who would remove religion from our society.

Maybe Ahmadinejad will provide an enlightened view of religious tolerance to a receptive crowd at Columbia. Ahmadinejad wouldn't seize the opportunity to pursue dhimmitude with the help of Columbia's president, would he?

MadisonMan said...

Crosses are under attack

What does this kind of hyperbole serve? I've never seen a cross splintered into kindling by machine gun fire, for example.

Crosses are "attacked" more by hypocritical Christians than by anything those who would live in a secular society do, IMO.

hdhouse said...

This will prove interesting actually. If this is the firehouse on Middagh St. then the 8 stars in heaven part of the depiction is for the 8 firemen lost on 9/11. OK. Got that.

Got the cross part as a girdered cross and the pedestal rising up behind the Towers.

So this looks like a depiction of the day....a collage and the brooklyn bridge...racing over to meet the doom. OK got it.

Now the cross in question seems to have caused a stir and is in a catholic location, removed from the public site. My take is, then, the debate over a religious icon or debris was effectively settled in favor of symbol. As it has no words it is "purely symbolic" and the use of it on the door at the firehouse, in connection with the dead (stars) creates a symbolically religious depiction of the events of the day, and not merely a collage. The inference is unmistakable (much like GWB's no Mendellas no?)

I would have chalked this up to just "bad art" if this weren't the same firehouse that floated up a Homer Simpson Santa last year and got all kinds of local backlash about it.

So aren't the core questions 1) the inclusion of a religious symbol, void of any text (10 commandment type), in a setting that depicts "remembered souls in heaven" blatantly a Christian depiction? and 2) is there a history of using the public building as a venue for pro-christian displays - Homer in Santa perhaps being funnier than religious....

halojones-fan said...

They're erecting some buildings on campus, and those things are FULL of crosses. Clearly architects are building Christianist influences into our very houses and offices! The pernicious influence of religoisity on structural mechanics is at the very root of this country's problems IMO!!

PatCA said...

I hope the ACLU isn't reading this...

Maybe if they built a footbath next to the door it would be okay.

Dewave said...

Looking at the pedestrian to the left of the mural, I can see why Ann deplores the practice of men wearing shorts.

Palladian said...

Could the cross be considered, in this context, a representation of a traditional grave marker rather than only a religious symbol? Would that make a difference in an Establishment Clause challenge?

Maxine Weiss said...

Totem Poles.

Richard Dolan said...

If you are imagining an Establishment Clause challenge by John Q. Citizen, I suspect it would fail in the SCOTUS (but all bets would be off if the case ended in the 2d Cir). The most difficult case for the City would be by another member of the NYFD (say, a Jewish or Muslim firefighter assigned to the same firehouse). That will almost certainly remain just a thought experiment, however -- if there were another guy in the firehouse who objected, the others would have known and would never have painted their 9/11 memorial that way.

Ralph said...

Ann must have been in disguise. I'm certain they raise the door when a lawyer (or Muslim or city official) walks by.

dick said...

When they sue to remove the slogan "in God we trust" which is carved in marble behind the judge's bench in all the courtrooms of the Queen's criminal Court House on Queens Boulevard, I will accept this - maybe. I just think the people who complain about these things are people who do not have anything else to do with their lives and think if they can up the establishment then they will not have lived in vain. They lose!

Ralph said...

There's a huge stained glass window of Jesus in the Naval Academy's chapel. Is that different because it's a chapel, or because it's indoors, or because he's not wearing a name tag?

hdhouse said...

Ralph.....

Have you personally seen Jesus enough to recognize him on sight? I mean what is he, about 5-10, 160, beard, brown hair, brown eyes, was he wearing Nikes?

Anyway, isn't this collage under discussion simple "indirect, remote, and incidental" and isn't that the test?

Ralph said...

I am not a lawyer. The USNA Jesus is gigantic, not incidental or remote, and I wouldn't say the Brooklyn cross is either. He maybe wearing flipflops, but thankfully not shorts or a Catholic thong. You can tell it's Jesus cuz he's walking on water.

Jason said...

Honestly, you're looking too hard for an establishment clause fight here.

Why don't you use your forum to attract attention to more serious issues? Like people who wear white after labor day.

Synova said...

My thought was that of a grave marker as well.

I think it's rather petty, actually, to decide that because of employment by the city that religious firefighters, even the only marginally religious by family tradition rather than active practice sort, can't express themselves with symbolism that is meaningful to them.

But I recall that some people dislike the putting up of crosses as a memory to dead loved ones if those crosses impose on the public by being unsightly.

Keep your mourning to yourself, dammit!