June 20, 2019

The Supreme Court looks at Notre Dame in Paris as an example of how a religious monument can become an important secular monument.

In today's opinion, American Legion v. American Humanists Association, about a large cross memorializing WWI dead, Justice Alito wrote for the majority:
With sufficient time, religiously expressive monuments, symbols, and practices can become embedded features of a community’s landscape and identity. The community may come to value them without necessarily embracing their religious roots. The recent tragic fire at Notre Dame in Paris provides a striking example. Although the French Republic rigorously enforces a secular public square, the cathedral remains a symbol of national importance to the religious and nonreligious alike. Notre Dame is fundamentally a place of worship and retains great religious importance, but its meaning has broadened. For many, it is inextricably linked with the very idea of Paris and France. Speaking to the nation shortly after the fire, President Macron said that Notre Dame “‘is our history, our literature, our imagination. The place where we survived epidemics, wars, liberation. It has been the epicenter of our lives.’”

58 comments:

J. Farmer said...

The Parthenon is another example.

Narr said...

Some nice historical consciousness there; symbols have no fixed meaning over time.

Narr
Seems obvious to me

iowan2 said...

Interesting quote from Alito.
Religion going past 'exercise of religion' to accepted norm of the the local, secular, culture.
Hmmm...Like highschool football in Texas? Where a prayer precedes the kickoff, and has for 100 years?

Maybe SCOTUS should not be dictating to state and local citizens how they run their own governments? We should invent a word for that.

traditionalguy said...

The Washington Monument is an Obelisk made for Osirus worship and also dedicated to a Southern slave owner. That sucker need to be demolished instanter.

traditionalguy said...

Why do the heathen rage?

MadisonMan said...

Macron is a politician. He could not have gone out and said "Thank Goodness this thing burned. Now we can infill the area for some nice low-income housing" and remained in power. Quoting him to make a valid point about Notre Dame doesn't work for me.

BarrySanders20 said...

Of course the mob nationalized the cathedral in 1789 and the French government has owned it ever since, so easy to see how it has taken on a more secular meaning. The secular government allows religious services there.

mikee said...

Fine, dandy. But when the Hagia Sophia is reclaimed jn some future resurgdnce of Chritian militant imperialism, don't expect it yo be retained as a mosque. It will become once more one of ghe most beautiful cathedrals in the world, against protests from leftists and muslims.

Mike Sylwester said...

Now the US Supreme Court is deciding First Amendment cases on the basis of cathedrals in France.

Michael K said...

don't expect it yo be retained as a mosque

When I was there ten years ago, it was not a mosque, it was a museum. The Quran calligraphy panels were being taken down and exposed Christian mosaics that had been carefully protected and preserved by the workmen, no doubt recent "converts" to Islam, who expected the church to be retaken some day. I have not been there since Erdogan went Islamic so don't know what has happened since,

whitney said...

Like the 6th century Buddhas of Bamiyan and Afghanistan. Oh wait....

Mike Sylwester said...

Is the Notre Dame Cathedral in France a penumbra or an emanation of the US Constitution?

J. Farmer said...

@mikee:

The Hagia Sophia has not been a mosque since the 1930s. Though the possibility of reverting it to a mosque has recently been raised.

The Godfather said...

I’m glad to hear about the Peace Cross. For several years, when I was commuting from Annapolis to DC, the alternate route, when US 50 was jammed, was “the Peace Cross route”. A nice monument that should have offended no one.

J. Farmer said...

Michael K:

I have not been there since Erdogan went Islamic so don't know what has happened since,

Erdogan was prime minister while you were there, and Abdullah Gül was presided. Both were members of the Justice and Development Party.

Quaestor said...

RBG argues Americans knew what it meant then and know what it means now.

Never mind judicial acumen or scholarship, that's what Trump's next Supreme Court nominee is going to need, clairvoyance.

When little Ruthie finally nods off and cools down and the putative replacement goes before the Senate Feinstein gonna show up with a deck of ESP cards.

Lucid-Ideas said...

The 'Paris' comments aside, something that played a role in the judges' minds has to be precedent. When was the complaint filed? Why now? What other monuments will meet the standard for certiorari? How many more of these cases will we have to hear and how many of these 'monuments' will have to come down? Are we going to start kicking over stones in Arlington?

Anyone with a brain can see there's no pleasing these people, nor should we.

Gospace said...

Is Christmas today a secular holiday or religious holiday? Or both in one? Federal and state workers have a paid day off on Christmas- obviously a government endorsement of religion of it's a religious holiday.

J. Farmer said...

@Gospace:

Is Christmas today a secular holiday or religious holiday? Or both in one? Federal and state workers have a paid day off on Christmas- obviously a government endorsement of religion of it's a religious holiday.

Christmas is actually another good example of something that is both a religious and a secular holiday. Easter is another. Both have overtly Christian origins, contain elements of European paganism, and are widely adopted by secular practitioners.

Browndog said...

If you like your really old secular religious symbols, you can keep your really old secular religious symbols.

readering said...

Was driven by Notre Dame last Sunday, and large crowds seemed to be gathered at most times. Great view from my airbnb. Very good point Alito makes. But then we're RC, not Jewish.

Gahrie said...

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday voiced the possibility of reverting the Hagia Sophia, which has been used as a museum since 1935 and is considered one of the world's wonders, to a mosque.
"This is not unlikely. We might even change its name to Ayasofya Mosque," Erdoğan said during a live interview with Turkish broadcaster TGRT.
"This is not a strange proposal," he said regarding the calls to convert the historical building to serve the purpose it did for half a millennium.


https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/2019/03/24/hagia-sophia-might-be-reverted-to-a-mosque-erdogan-says

Slip said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Narr said...

We used to get a paid week off that usually covered both Christmas and New Year, part of our bundle of annual paid state holidays (the rest being the usual ones, minus Presidents Day and Columbus Day).

It was nice.

Narr
The library used to close on Easter Sunday but we stopped that in the late 80s IIRC

Char Char Binks said...

Do Muslim Egyptians want to tear down the pyramids?

Narr said...

If Erdogan and his co-faithful want to throw away the legacy of the greatest leader they had in centuries, or will see again, he throws away the only thing that makes Turkey a modern country.

Narr
So I'm sure he will

Narr said...

Some Muslim Egyptians want to tear down the Pyramids, yes.

Narr
All some folks want to do is tear down, tear down

Leland said...

Good thing we don't have Mayan temples around here.

J. Farmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

You can have your cultural monument, but let's recharacterize and repurpose it.

J. Farmer said...

@Narr:

If Erdogan and his co-faithful want to throw away the legacy of the greatest leader they had in centuries, or will see again, he throws away the only thing that makes Turkey a modern country.

His co-faithful are a supermajority of the country. And in Pew polling, more than half of respondents answer that religion is "very important" in their lives. It is not likely that you can have democracy and secularism in Turkey when a majority of Turks oppose Kemalist secularlism. That said, there is this:

Turkish youth increasingly secular and modern under Erdogan, poll finds

Narr said...

Secular and modern are good, but can easily slide into cultistic nationalism.

Narr
And Leader-worship of course

purplepenquin said...

"A nice monument that should have offended no one."

As Bill Hicks pointed out, Jesus himself wouldn't probably be too happy upon viewing a cross...

purplepenquin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lloyd W. Robertson said...

I also taught some of this years ago. My memory is hazy, and I haven't looked anything up.

Religious monuments are more likely to be unconstitutional if they are new? Not sanctified by time, tradition, respect of a broader community kind of thing? Religions are safe if they're museum pieces? This makes political sense, so to speak, but there is something strange about it. There had better not be an actual miracle at this site, or someone is going to pay so help me God.

J. Farmer said...

@purplepenquin:

As Bill Hicks pointed out, Jesus himself wouldn't probably be too happy upon viewing a cross...

That was a pretty funny bit of Hicks'. I liked a lot of his work when he was part of the Texas Outlaw Comics, but somewhere along the line he got a hold of a Noam Chomsky book and started trying to be important, a fatal flaw in stand-up comics in my opinion. Hicks used to rant about consumerism and corporations while simultaneously selling merch and trying to get a network gig.

Limited Perspective said...

Chairs are the symbol used for each of the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. Is there any symbol more vacuous? Perhaps they can take down the cross and put up a stack of beer stained bar stools so the Humanist won't get their panties in a wad.

Being Christian, I'd rather have Thor's Mjolnir or Zeus' Lightning Bolt on my grave than a damned meaningless chair.

Narr said...

LP@328:

We shall meet but we shall miss him,
There will be a vacant chair . . .

Narr
Not entirely inappropriate

Big Mike said...

Maybe Ruth Ginsburg is a vampire? Maybe that’s the reason she reacts so badly to crosses?

So much for the “Wise Latina;” Sotomayor looks dumber by the day.

jimbino said...

Science and Reason may come and go, but the Bible and Koran will still be shelved in the non-fiction section of our libraries.

Limited Perspective said...

Nar,

"Diamond rings and old barstools
One's for queens and one's for fools
One's the future and one's the past
One's forever and one won't last"

Give a me cross

whitney said...

"Char Char Binks said...
Do Muslim Egyptians want to tear down the pyramids?"

Yes.

https://www.thevintagenews.com/2016/09/06/the-great-pyramid-of-giza-was-once-covered-in-highly-polished-white-limestone-before-it-was-removed-to-build-mosques-and-fortresses/

Narr said...

LP, I think you'll get your wish.

Pyramid recycling. The thing that interests me is the "built-from-the-inside" theory.
That would be something!

Narr
Roman ruins also were good sources of building materials

Limited Perspective said...

We should build the next Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on top of a sacred Native American burial site. We can decorate the place with those chrome walking Darwin fish things and have lunch at the Spaghetti Monster Cafe.

At the center of this Panopticon, there could be a giant concrete Edward Jenner. And of course, some bronze chairs.

Big Mike said...

@Limited, The Vacant Chair is a song from the beginning of the Civil War, when the lengthy casualty lists were not yet a common occurrence and people still thought that the war would probably be over by Christmas.

Big Mike said...

Roy Moore has announced that he will run for the Senate next year. Some people cannot take a hint.

Limited Perspective said...

Well Mr Big, you got me there. Last year, I flew back East and toured for the first time the Civil War battlefields. I read books on the history of the war the year prior. I could feel the men on every hill and field and see in my mind's eye the young men. My own military tour was nothing compared to these men.

I stand corrected, an empty chair has meaning.

Fen said...

Science and Reason may come and go, but the Bible and Koran will still be shelved in the non-fiction section of our libraries.

Climatology is still shelved in non-fiction. I wonder how it will be removed. All at once and very quietly?

What I find interesting is the mental condition that allows them to cry wolf over and over again, as if they never register "the stove is hot". They are prophecizing Climate Armageddon VI or VII right now, without an ounce of shame. Even the most radical evangelical cult would knock it off after the 3rd time the Mothership failed to arrive on the Appointed Day, and yet here the "scientists" are...

I wonder how many of these Climate Scientists are Atheist and if there is a correlation.

Fen said...

As Bill Hicks pointed out, Jesus himself wouldn't probably be too happy upon viewing a cross

Probably the most successful appropriation of a symbol of your oppression.

Imagine African-Americans tatooing slave collars around their neck as a symbol of hope.

Narr said...

OK, why will the Koran/Quran, of all things, be shelved as non-fiction?

In LC classification, religious scriptures are "B's. No fiction/nonfiction distinction.

Narr
Public libraries often do it with Dewey

Fen said...

In LC classification, religious scriptures are "B's. No fiction/nonfiction distinction.

Ya know, in a previous life I was an LM3. The sweet lady who trained me is going to haunt me for not posting that before you. I am so schooled. ;)

Narr said...

LM3? Sorry, can't decipher.

A construction manager at a worksite of my wife's, in NYC in the early '80s, was a retired British Army brigadier--ex-commander of their armoured div in Germany (BAOR). He said one of his favorite assignments as a young officer was developing a base or regimental library.

A friend of mine, former airborne, is now at the USMA Library. His academic specialty is the development of professional book culture and strategic thought among British Army officers in the 18th century.

Narr
Your tax dollars at work

Fen said...

LM3? Sorry, can't decipher.

Designation for an entry level librarian position.

Skipper said...

So, only old stuff is constitutional. New stuff, not.

Narr said...

I was a librarian for working in a library, a Library Assistant (3 grades) as a fulltime staff person and after achieving the Certificate of Quasiomniscience (MLIS) I could call myself a Librarian.

Narr
Kind of like Realtor

PhilD said...

"I wonder how many of these Climate Scientists are Atheist and if there is a correlation."


There certainly is a correlation between atheists and that (those) scientific system(s) par excellence called 'Marxism'. For some reason contemporary atheists don't like to be reminded of that though they love to point out the sins and crimes of various religions (but 'sin' has no meaning in the atheist universe and, come to think of it, neither does 'crime'. I always wonder about that.)

Narr said...

How do you figure 'crime' has no meaning in "the atheist universe" (whatever that is)?

Narr
We may be in a multiverse

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