June 29, 2005

Do We Need a Monument Celebrating Slavery?

William Joseph Simmons, founder of th...
William Joseph Simmons, founder of the second Ku Klux Klan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Atheist blogs have been buzzing about the recent Ten Commandments verdicts. I'm content to leave the legal analysis to the experts, but I can't resist making an observation about some of the Christian reactions to the verdicts.

The Detroit News (update: link no longer active) quoted Florida attorney Mathew Staver (he argued the Kentucky case) as saying, "That the Ten Commandments would be deemed unconstitutional is an insult to the Constitution, to our shared religious history and to our veterans from whose blood liberty was birthed." Whose shared religious history is he talking about? This flawed argument appears to center on the common perception that America's Christian heritage justifies religious displays.

By this same logic, couldn't one argue that we should erect pro-slavery monuments because slavery was part of our nation's history. It is common knowledge that the "founding fathers" were slaveholders. Why are we bombarded with reminders about their religiosity and not the slaves they held? It seems like the Ku Klux Klan is missing an opportunity here. If it is acceptable for the government to promote religion simply because "Our country was based on religious values and historical values," it should be acceptable to promote anything that was a basis for our country. Slavery, genocide against Native Americans, and the witch trials are but a few examples that come to mind.

Think I'm being silly? Here in the South, this same argument is used by those who oppose removal of confederate symbols. They claim that we should keep the confederate battle flag on Mississippi's state flag because it was a part of our heritage. Just because something was part of our heritage does not necessarily mean that we need to honor it with monuments, does it?