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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Welcome to the Convo, where ACG Blog contributors get together for discussion and analysis. Today’s topic is last night’s episode of “Glee,” “Grilled Cheesus.”

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After the previous two episodes’ twin mediocrity, “Glee” last night was a breath of fresh air and reestablished not only the breadth of talent on the cast but also how powerful its thematic explorations can be. The kids looked at religion in a way more adult than most Americans are generally willing to approach the subject — and we were treated to a number of compelling songs that affirmed the show’s deft ability to apply music to life.

It all began how it usually does: Finn acting dumb. He makes a grilled cheese sandwich that bears a burn mark of striking resemblance to Jesus. This small, seemingly insignificant event, of course, must subsume the glee club’s entire week, preempting whatever lesson Schue had planned out. Puck then launches into a shockingly catchy cover of Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young.” Sure, there wasn’t much explanation other than that it’s religion-adjacent and Puck seems drawn to Jewish artists. Sure, the direction, otherwise flawless in this episode, relied almost exclusively on nauseating zoom-in/zoom-out shots. Sure, the choreography was both choppy and sloppy. But this is one tune I’ll be playing on repeat this week.

Soon the true central event of the episode occurs: Burt, Kurt’s father, has a heart attack and lies comatose in the hospital. Schue and Emma subtly hold hands while waiting with Kurt at the hospital, a fleeting gesture that will probably unravel with more importance later. A lesser show would have Kurt immediately connect his refusal to attend a family dinner with his father’s infarction, but “Glee” is too smart for such magical thinking; instead, it forces him to take the long way around. Kurt returns to school to face the myriad friends offering up condolences and prayers, but he is a die-hard atheist, even in the face of paternal tragedy, and he coldly rejects their proffered benedictions. Finn even erupts in anger that he found out through the grapevine rather than from Kurt because Burt is the closest Finn has had to a father. Fortunately, he quickly realizes how monstrously selfish such indignation seems and becomes more quietly supportive.

For someone whose father figure is lying hooked up to a heart monitor, however, Finn shows surprisingly little emotion over the matter. Perhaps it has to do with his emotional detachment — as he noted to Emma, he yawned while Rachel was discussing her feelings. Perhaps detachment is only Finn’s response to the overly emotional and self-involved Rachel (“Let’s discuss your newfound love for Jesus and how it’s affecting me.”). As per his prayers to the grilled cheese idol, Rachel allows him to get to second base; fortunately for the censors, Finn didn’t pray for a slide into home. It also leads to a beautiful if puzzling rendition of “Papa Can You Hear Me?” Why was Rachel singing that song about Burt? Sure, she was understandably concerned, but that was taking it a little far. In any event, the direction for the “Yentl” song masterfully portrays Kurt’s isolation from his father, a connection the more religious glee clubbers seem able to make.

In fact, Kurt’s morose mood leads to some confrontation at school with those who believe. They argue that one cannot prove God does not exist; Kurt responds with a detailed analogy about a space dwarf with laser tits, leaving Brittany to wonder if God is an angry dwarf. Schue warns everyone to lay off Kurt, and Mercedes apologizes and invites him to church with her. It takes some convincing, but finally Kurt relents when she points out the rare fashion opportunities. “You had me at fabulous hat,” he says, smiling through a puffy face and dried tears.

Like Kurt himself, his Sunday best was indeed fabulous. Ensconced in the congregation, however, Kurt finds himself humanizing the anti-homosexual, anti-women religion he had been railing against earlier in the episode. Mercedes, backed up by a choir worthy of her diva voice, belts out “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” a song that relies not on church doctrine but rather on the power of a supportive community. Kurt, for the approximately thirty-fifth time, tears up watching her rally the troops around him.

Mercedes inspires Kurt to finally express his emotion through song — quite possibly the greatest cover “Glee” has produced to date. His choice, the Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” is unusual at first, but quickly becomes clear; Kurt has slowed down the vocals and upped the emotion, adapting the pop hit to his own situation. The song is clinched by flashbacks of Kurt’s tea-and-cake afternoons with his father, and coming together as a family in the aftermath of his mother’s death. Therein lies the greatest achievement of “Glee” — not the ability to spit out shot-for-shot remakes of Madonna videos and Broadway hits but rather to take universal music and transform it into something personal and poignant and unique.

Even more importantly, “Glee” didn’t fall prey to the obvious melodrama offered by such deep spiritual introspection; there were no inadvertent conversions, no believer-to-sinner transformations and no depictions of atheism as necessarily inferior. Instead, the kids all learned more about their own faiths and ultimately were able to respect that of others’ and even treat the conversation civilly and seriously. Kurt’s father’s recovery was not instantaneous, his emergence from the coma slow and excruciating; he likely faces a long road to recovery. And Jane Lynch once again proved that her Emmy win was not for the poison-tipped barbs she lobs at Schue and the weaker kids week after week. Rather, her highly nuanced character develops through heartbreaking revelations about her relationship with her sister, one I suspect is going to prove crucial to her failures as a person.

Alex Guillén

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“Glee”’s “religion episode,” as the latest outing is sure to be known, appeared as a welcome change from the total ridiculousness of last week’s Spears homage. Kurt Hummel, so wonderfully played by Chris Colfer, proves once again to be the most well-rounded and relatable character on the show.

Every interaction between Kurt and his father Burt seems natural and realistic, and Colfer acts his heart out as Kurt struggles to deal with seeing his father in a coma as the result of a heart attack. Even his monologue and melancholy performance of “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” which could have easily taken a turn toward overwrought, achieved something else by delivering a sincere emotional punch. The scenes of a younger Kurt endeared him to me even more (bejeweled bicycle spokes! bowties!). And thankfully the episode ended on a hopeful note. Though we’re far from sure that Burt will make it through this totally well, it seems this is not to be his end. (And good on you, “Glee” writers, for not completely wrapping this storyline in one episode!)

Then again, the whole motivation for this exploration of faith stemmed from Finn seeing the image of Jesus burned into his grilled cheese sandwich (giving the world the horrible phrase “grilled cheesus”). He thinks this Jesus image is answering his prayers, including being reinstated as the quarterback — though that only happens when Sam dislocates a shoulder. Which logically leads to Finn doubting his faith. In a grilled cheese sandwich. He finally eats it at the end of the episode.

The show did an admirable job of addressing a variety or religions and spirituality in the broader sense, including portraying Kurt and Sue as atheists and mentioning but not focusing on the conflict between organized religion and homosexuality. The message in the end isn’t about religion, but about faith, love, support and tolerance for everyone’s ideas. Even Kurt finds himself pushing people away because he views them as trying to push their faith on him, but eventually realizes his friends are trying to offer him support in the best way they know.

It was an episode light on laughs, but Kurt’s rebuttal to Mercedes’ statement that “you can’t prove that there’s no god” led to Brittany’s best one-liner of the night: “Is god an evil dwarf?” For a show billed as a musical, most of the performances this week were lackluster. The singing itself was credible, but despite the fact that all of the songs mentioned or referenced religion in some way, I failed to connect with them and to connect them with the week’s theme. For all that it’s called “Losing My Religion,” that particular R.E.M song really has… almost nothing to do with religion.

In the end, “Grilled Cheesus” wasn’t quite a perfect example of a wonderful Glee episode, but it took a lot of steps in the right direction.

Alexandria Jackson

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As usual, the latest “Glee” is a manic-depressive bundle of nervous energy. What other show could — or at least, would — go straight from a zany episode about dental drug-induced hallucinations of Britney Spears to a heavy look at the possibility of a parent’s death and some heated discussion over whether belief in a higher power is a mistake? For that matter, what other show would feature a young man praying to a sandwich that he’ll be allowed to touch his girlfriend’s breasts — and devote almost equal time to that and the plot about an atheist’s sick father? Whew! That’s what you missed this week on “Glee.”

Thanks to some soulful performances and a stirring plot to place them in, the songs this week seemed exceptionally well-done. The odd one out was Puck’s solo of Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young,” which felt out of place in its tone even before we learned that Kurt’s dad Burt has been taken to the hospital in a coma. Looking back on this first number once Kurt has begun wondering if he will soon be an orphan, its title and mood are even more chilling. Still, it was a very good performance in and of itself, and I look forward to purchasing the track on iTunes. It just didn’t seem to fit the rest of the episode very well.

Emotionally, this episode was a big step forward for “Glee,” which has tended to skirt around any themes of real weight.  The setup of Kurt’s story was a bit hackneyed: moody teen doesn’t want to do something with his family that the teen’s dad says is important, teen’s dad falls sick, teen cries that he’d do it all over again if he could, teen’s dad starts to get better. But the premise allowed for all the gang to reach some emotional depths that they haven’t really been pushed to on-screen before, and that was a very welcome occurrence. Kurt was obviously struck the hardest by the news about his dad, but the writers and cast did a good job of showing everyone else’s reactions as well. Rachel’s sobbing performance under the stars and over Burt’s hospital bed felt a tad over-the-top based on how little their characters must know each other and how distant she is with Kurt. But with Rachel everything has to be over-the-top, so I suppose her emotion in “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” wasn’t really that much of a stretch. It felt phony, but it was one of those times when it seemed like Rachel was actually believing her own phoniness.

The bedroom scene between Rachel and Finn was absurd because of the sandwich plot, but it raises an interesting question about how honest Finn and Rachel are being with each other about their past experience. Finn now knows Rachel wants to wait until her mid-twenties to have sex, but unless they’ve had a conversation off-screen this summer, he probably still believes that she slept with Jesse St. James. That’s got to be rough for a guy like Finn, who has known and now dated Rachel for much longer than Jesse did. By the same token, unless they’ve had that talk and corrected their lies, Rachel probably believes Finn didn’t have that one-night-stand with Santana. That sort of information isn’t vital to a healthy relationship, but it certainly has the possibility to blow up at a moment’s notice. For a show like “Glee” that revels in drama, you can bet Finchel’s past is going to come back to bite them.

Speaking of drama, I am getting tired of Kurt, who used to be one of my favorite characters. True, he was dealt a really crummy hand this episode, but I’m not really talking about his reaction to his dad’s hospital stay — anyone could react that poorly to such news, and it’s good for a show to occasionally push its characters to those limits just to see what they’ll do. But I’m talking about Kurt’s bad attitude even before his dad collapsed, when he was refusing to come to family dinner. Seriously, man — what gives? I’m as big a fan of “The Sound of Music” as the next guy, but Kurt’s behavior here just doesn’t make sense. It’s more of the same rude behavior I noticed last episode, when he was talking back to Mr. Schuester over his ban on Britney. Has the writing of this character changed so significantly this season for no reason, or is the show’s new treatment of Kurt building to some sort of point? It’s strange to me that internet rumors have been hinting that Kurt will get a boyfriend this season, since based on his behavior in the past few episodes, he’s never deserved one less.

“Glee” is all about comebacks and power ballads, and I hope this scare with Kurt’s dad will be enough to give him one of both next week. So far this season, the only new directions have been in Kurt’s attitude to life, and I for one am not digging the change.

Joe Kessler

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A new survey from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life finds that atheists and agnostics have the greatest religious knowledge, answering on average 20.9 of 32 questions correctly. The overall average was 16 of the 32 correct, a 50 percent pass rate. Hispanic Catholics did the worst, getting just 11.6 correct on average.

On questions about Christianity – including a battery of questions about the Bible – Mormons (7.9 out of 12 right on average) and white evangelical Protestants (7.3 correct on average) show the highest levels of knowledge. Jews and atheists/agnostics stand out for their knowledge of other world religions, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism; out of 11 such questions on the survey, Jews answer 7.9 correctly (nearly three better than the national average) and atheists/agnostics answer 7.5 correctly (2.5 better than the national average). Atheists/agnostics and Jews also do particularly well on questions about the role of religion in public life, including a question about what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.

Some other results:

  • 89 percent said public school teachers cannot lead a class in prayer
  • 71 percent identified Bethlehem as Jesus’ birthplace
  • 68 percent said the majority religion in Pakistan is Islam
  • 63 percent identified Genesis as the first book of the Bible
  • 55 percent knew the Golden Rule is not one of the Ten Commandments
  • 52 percent identified Ramadan as the Islamic holy month
  • 51 percent identified the Dalai Lama as Buddhist
  • 46 percent said Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation
  • 45 percent said the Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday
  • 38 percent associated Vishnu and Shiva with Hinduism
  • 36 percent correctly said public school teachers can teach a class comparing the world’s religions
  • Only 23 percent knew public school teachers can read from the Bible as an example of literature

The survey also asked several non-religious questions for comparative purposes.

  • 59 percent named Joe Biden as the current vice president
  • 59 percent knew antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses
  • 71 percent identified Charles Darwin with the theory of evolution by natural selection
  • 42 percent identified Herman Melville as the author of “Moby Dick” (18 percent said Nathaniel Hawthorne; 4 percent said Stephen King; 2 percent said Edith Wharton; 33 percent didn’t know)
  • 31 percent identified the Scopes trial as the trial that dealt with teaching evolution in public schools (36 percent said Brown v. Board of Education; 3 percent said the Salem witch trials)

Why would atheists and agnostics be more knowledgeable about religious trivia? “These are people who thought a lot about religion,” Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum, told the Los Angeles Times. “They’re not indifferent. They care about it.”

“I think that what happens for many Christians is, they accept their particular faith, they accept it to be true and they stop examining it. Consequently, because it’s already accepted to be true, they don’t examine other people’s faiths,” Kansas Methodist minister Rev. Adam Hamilton said. “That, I think, is not healthy for a person of any faith.”

Politics Daily’s Jeffrey Weiss attributes the survey’s findings to the Religion Congruence Fallacy, in which “Americans who say they belong to a particular religious tradition tend not to act like it.”

Boston University professor Stephen Prothero, writing at CNN, argues that the Pew findings reveal the need for religious public school classes.

Believers and nonbelievers obviously disagree on the virtues and vices of religion. But all careful observers of the world should be able to agree on this: From time immemorial, and for better or for worse, human beings have been motivated to act politically, economically and militarily by their gods, scriptures and priests. Without making sense of those motivations, we cannot make sense of the world. It is time to address our national epidemic of religious illiteracy. I have called in the past for mandatory public school courses on the Bible and the world’s religions to remedy this problem. The time for such courses is now.

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Much of the debate over New York’s Part51 project seems to have taken place outside of New York, where it has become a mainstay campaign issue in races across the country. However, a New York Times poll out today shows that a majority of New Yorkers, 67 percent, believe the Islamic center — which has already been approved by authorities — should not be built. Some other results:

  • 62 percent think Muslims have the right to build it (29 percent said no)
  • 52 percent think New York politicians should take a stand (41 percent said no)
  • 32 percent think politicians outside New York should take a stand (64 percent said now)
  • 51 percent of Manhattanites favor construction (41 percent oppose), while only 31 percent of the other four burroughs’ residents favor construction (52 percent oppose)
  • 74 percent of Republicans oppose; 44 percent of Democrats oppose
  • The education trend is fairly predictable; the more education completed, the more likely one is to support the project. Those with no college education showed a 24/62 favor/oppose spread; those with post-graduate degrees were split 60/30
  • 38 percent of those who supported the project later said they think it should be moved farther away
  • 33 percent said Muslims are more sympathetic to terrorists than other Americans
  • Almost 60 percent said they harbor negative opinions about Muslims because of 9/11

There were many of the same opinions harbored by others that has been promulgated during the nation-wide debate. One woman said she favors freedom of religion except in this case, arguing sensitivity over 9/11 should prevail.

“Give them an inch, they’ll take a yard,” another respondent said. “They want to build a mosque wherever they can. And once they start praying there, it is considered hallowed ground and can’t be taken away. Ever. That’s why we’re having this tug of war between New Yorkers and the Islamic people.”

The Washington Post’s Sue Jacoby examines the concept of sacred or hallowed ground, a phrase tossed around a lot during the Park51 debate but never elaborated upon. Sacred ground, generally considered where humans have died, are usually intended to unite but instead promote strife and violence, Jacoby writes. Successful examples of hallowed ground include Nazi concentration camps and the Gettysburg battlefield, where historians have worked to create an atmosphere of solemnity while at the same time promoting peace and tolerance. Jacoby quotes Lincoln’s famous 1862 speech at the site of the U.S.’s bloodiest battle:

“It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, for by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

… Lincoln’s words are just as applicable to the memories of recent bloodshed. It is for us, the living, to honor the dead not by puffing ourselves up about sacralizing pieces of earth but by working to prevent the creation of more blood-soaked “sacred places.”

For many, the great debate over the Islamic center boils down to religious freedom and sensitivity to victims. Noble intentions both, but there is more to the debate. The call for tolerance reaches beyond religion and becomes tolerance of that which we may fear.

All rational people know that 9/11 was perpetrated by a radical Islamist fringe group; the vast majority of the world’s second-largest religion, including those who also call themselves Americans, are victims of 9/11 as well. Once viewed as victims joining victims to fight the divisive, destructive desires of the terrorists, the Park51 project becomes less a question of sensitivity and more a question of devotion to the tolerance and freedom such terrorists despise.

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New Left Media has another entertaining video from Glenn Beck’s Saturday Tea Party rally in Washington, D.C. Think of the attendees what you will, but there is one striking part of the video regarding Beck.

Last year, Beck referred to Barack Obama—our country’s first African-American President–as a “racist… who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.” When offered the chance to respond to Beck’s statements, his fans either agreed with him or simply refused to believe that he had ever made them.

It definitely happened, even if Beck recently walked back (kind of) from his comments. Anyway, check out New Left Media’s rally interviews below.

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Via Flickr

In his weekly New York Times column today, Ross Douthat says he underestimated Glenn Beck and that the Fox News personality’s star is indeed on the rise. I was surprised to discover that Beck’s star was not on the rise; true, his ratings are down somewhat, but it is summer, and he keeps publishing book after ridiculously terrible book. Perhaps even more importantly to his anti-liberal image, his appearances on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” border on constant these days.

In any event, Beck managed to make a day that otherwise would have been about Martin Luther King, Jr. and civil rights about himself and laissez-faire economics. By all accounts it upset contemporary civil right leaders and anyone with a firm grasp on the real meaning of the civil rights movement.

Douthat is surprisingly deluded about the event’s real focus and the general presence on the ground, outside the press box he occupied.

The Fox News host had promised that the rally, billed as a celebration of American values, would be an explicitly apolitical event. And so it came to pass: save for an occasional “Don’t Tread On Me,” banner, the crowded Mall was nearly free of political signs and T-shirt slogans, and there was barely a whisper of the crusade against liberalism that consumes most of Beck’s on-air hours.

Really? Apolitical and lacking the usual offensive right-wing signs? Photos from the crowd are rife with people wearing quasi-racist or anti-liberal, including this man, who wore a shirt that read “Obama is a Socialist, a Fraud, a Liar & a Racist Bigot” underneath a shirt that read “Blacks own slaves in Mauitania [sic], Sudan, Niger & Haiti.” Furthermore, as Douthat himself notes, many people were carrying “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, staples at any Tea Party event. True, reports note that this event had markedly fewer such signs and t-shirts, but nevertheless it was far from an apolitical event.

As for the “whisper of the crusade against liberalism,” the speeches were political rhetoric couched in spirituality. As Beck said:

For too long, this country has wandered in darkness. This country has spent far too long worrying about scars and thinking about scars and concentrating on scars. Today, we are going to concentrate on the good things in America.

2008 Republican vice presidential candidate and Fox News personality Sarah Palin also spoke. She noted she was asked to speak “not as a politician… no something more something much more; I’ve been asked to speak as the mother of a soldier.” Simply by acknowledging that fact she is irrevocably linking the two. She went on to refer to Obama:

We must not fundamentally transform America as some would want; we must restore America and restore her honor.

For many people, and especially on the right, religion and politics are intertwined. For them, and for anyone who knows how to read between the lines, this was a political event.

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A new poll from the Pew Research Center indicates a significant increase in public opinion that President Barack Obama is a Muslim (he is a Christian) — from 11 percent in March 2009 to 18 percent today. There has been an even more massive drop in the belief that Obama is Christian — from 48 to 34 percent.

The poll (read the complete report here [PDF]) was conducted from July 21 through August 5 — meaning it doesn’t even take into account Obama’s recent discussion of the controversial Park51 project in New York.

The shift was greatest among Republicans (up 14 percent) and especially conservative Republicans (up 16 percent). However, the belief that Obama is a Muslim increased at least slightly in every category, including Democrats (3 percent) and liberal Democrats (1 percent).

Explanations vary:

  • White House “faith adviser Joshua DuBois blamed “misinformation campaigns” by the president’s opponents.”
  • George Mason University history professor Rick Shenkman “was not surprised by the recently reported rise in people who were not sure of Obama’s religion, since ‘people follow the news so loosely that they are susceptible to any wild idea’ and ‘myths are part of a larger narrative that people construct in their heads to make sense out of seismic events and upheavals.’”
  • [T]he shifting attitudes about the president’s religious beliefs could also be the result of a public growing less enamored of him and increasingly attracted to labels they perceive as negative. In the Pew poll, 41 percent disapprove of Obama’s job performance, compared with 26 percent disapproval in its March 2009 poll. [From The Washington Post]
  • “Dr. Clyde Wilcox, professor of government at Georgetown University, says what is driving the president’s sinking approval ratings is the economy. ‘If the economy were resurrected from the dead like Lazarus, then you would see less of this,’ he said. [From Fox News]
  • A Washington Times editorial blames Obama’s words and actions: “[I]n a February 2008 interview with the New York Times, Mr. Obama said the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, is ‘one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.’ He then recited it, ‘with a first-class [Arabic] accent.’ The opening of the Adhan contains the Shahada, the Muslim profession of faith, proclaiming, ‘There is no god but God and Muhammad is the prophet of God.’ Stating this before two Muslims is the traditional requirement for joining the Islamic faith. Adding fuel to the fire is Mr. Obama’s family heritage: born of a Muslim father and raised by a Muslim stepfather. Under Shariah law, having a Muslim father makes one a Muslim, though this custom has no legal standing in the United States.”

There is one possible explanation no one seems to have brought up. Could it also be a tinge of the Bradley effect, which has to do with discrepancies between polls and votes cast in elections between a white and a non-white candidate? Several articles examined the possible Bradley effect in the 2008 presidential election. It’s not too difficult to imagine people already convinced Obama is a Muslim saying otherwise during the height of his election-era popularity, but almost two years later are more willing to openly state their opinion as the belief Obama is a Muslim grows.

Obviously, no one can say for sure what the cause behind this massive shift is. Experience and common sense, however, mean it is likely to be a little bit of all the explanations.

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One of the UHPA crosses in Utah.

Out of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals comes a decision seemingly destined for the Supreme Court: 12-foot crosses erected by the Utah Highway Patrol Association on public land to memorialize fallen highway patrol officers “have the impermissible effect of conveying to the reasonable observer the message that the State prefers or otherwise endorses a certain religion. They therefore violate the Establishment Clause of the federal constitution.”

Some facts:

  • The UHPA is a non-profit that began the memorial project in 1998.
  • The crosses were 12 feet tall so as to be easily visible to passersby at 55 miles per hour.
  • The UHPA always sought permission from the officers’ families prior to erecting a cross memorial. No family ever objected to the cross symbol.
  • The UHPA would honor any request to use a different symbol.
  • Some crosses are on private land; some are on state land. American Atheists, Inc., the plaintiffs, brought the suit regarding the crosses on state land.
  • Among other things, the plaintiffs sought the removal of the crosses from state property; an acknowledgement that the crosses violated their constitutional rights; and $1 million in nominal damages.

The defendants argued that the crosses were marked with a name and biography and therefore classified not as a religious symbol but a representation of death. The court agreed “that a reasonable observer would recognize these memorial crosses as symbols of death. However, we do not agree that this nullifies their religious sectarian content because a memorial cross is not a generic symbol of death; it is a Christian symbol of death that signifies or memorializes the death of a Christian. The parties agree that a cross was traditionally a Christian symbol of death and, despite Defendants’ assertions to the contrary, there is no evidence in the record that the cross has been universally embraced as a marker for the burial sites of non-Christians or as a memorial for a non-Christian’s death. The UHPA acknowledges that when it asserts that it would honor the request made by a Jewish state trooper’s family to memorialize him with a Star of David rather than a cross.”

(more…)

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