IN THE COMMENTS: Some of you think that the cross in this context should be understood as representing health care and not Christianity at all. (Sea Urchin said: "Well, it is a square cross, which I associate first with the picture on my first aid kit.") I hope that if you think that, you also agree — and many don't — with what Justice Scalia said at oral argument in Salazar v. Buono, the case about the cross that the Veterans of Foreign Wars built in the Mojave National Preserve, which is supposed to honor the soldiers who died in WWI:
"It's erected as a war memorial. I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead... What would you have them erect?...Some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and you know, a Muslim half moon and star?"
Peter Eliasberg, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer arguing the case, explained that the cross is the predominant symbol of Christianity and commonly used at Christian grave sites, not that the devoutly Catholic Scalia needed to be told that.
"I have been in Jewish cemeteries," Eliasberg continued. "There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew."
There was mild laughter in the packed courtroom, but not from Scalia.
"I don't think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that that cross honors are the Christian war dead. I think that's an outrageous conclusion," Scalia said, clearly irritated by the exchange.
IN THE COMMENTS: Palladian said:
There's a theory that the symbol of the red cross was painted on the baseboards of corridors in the great palaces and castles of England during the middle ages and Renaissance to deter people from urinating in those places, a common problem in those times. It was supposed that a person would not want to micturate upon the symbols of Albion and of his saviour Christ. These effluence-protected spots thereby became associated with cleanness, which led to the later use of the cross to connote sanitation and hygiene. This association eventually led to the use of the red cross as a symbol for medical practitioners, once the connection between hygiene and disease prevention was made, that is.