Friday, May 27, 2005

The ACLU Cashes In

Galley Friend and intellectual powerhouse Chris Levenick has a great story in the Wall Street Journal this morning about a church-state controversy brewing in the California desert:
In 1934, a gritty prospector named J. Riley Bembry gathered a couple of his fellow World War I veterans at Sunrise Rock. Together they erected the cross, in honor of their fallen comrades. The memorial has been privately maintained ever since, with small groups still occasionally meeting to remember the nation's veterans.

A wrinkle developed in 1994, when the federal government declared the surrounding area a national preserve. With the cross now located on newly public land, the memorial soon caught the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union. Working with Frank Buono, a retired park ranger turned professional activist, the ACLU demanded that the National Park Service tear down the cross.

Mr. Buono insists that his seeing the monument ("two to four times a year") violates his civil rights. A federal district court found in his favor, and the decision was subsequently upheld by the Ninth Circuit. Last-ditch attempts to deed Sunrise Rock over to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars were struck down in April. Defenders of the memorial hope to appeal, but their options are narrowing.

But that's not even the real story. As Levenick details, the ACLU has turned a tidy profit on the case, since "the taxpayer once again ended up paying the ACLU for pressing a highly controversial church-state lawsuit."

Great reporting on a fantastic story.


Anonymous said...

It seems that the ACLU could be directly compared to the Taliban in this case, doesn't it!?!

Tearing down this historically significant cross would be similar to the Taliban's destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas.

Ah! I've been needing to spew forth some overheated "just like the Taliban" rhetoric!

Anonymous said...

1. The ACLU didn't "make out." They just broke even.

2. It is public land.

3. A "six-foot cross, fashioned out of four-inch-diameter steel pipe" on top of a moutain does seem kinda tacky.

4. AEI found another way to rile up the fundie base. It will bite the ACLU in the ass in the long run.

Anonymous said...

what about all those crosses at arlington nat'l cemetary?
is arlington nat'l cemetary public land?

Anonymous said...

1. Uh, yeah, actually the ACLU did make out. Read the article. They used staff and volunteer lawyers, so their expenses were the same whether they tried the case or went fishing. There was no downside risk -- fee reversals are disallowed, remember? -- and they ended up pocketing sixty-three grand, charging private sector fees on volunteer and non-profit hours. That's making out like a prom date, my friend.

2. So is the Smithsonian. Let's go tear down the Rembrandts -- all that grossly offensive religious iconography. Seriously. It's public land, right?

3. I must've missed the provision of the Constitution that made federal courts the arbiters of what's tasteful. Here's a question: what if the cross were kitschy? Would that pass constitutional muster? What about campy? Sublime is out -- way too transcendant. No matter. Justice O'Connor will soon provide us with a 46-point set of guidelines.

4. By the way, the rap on AEI is that it's in the pocket of ExxonMobil -- they ain't exactly rollin in fundie-dollars. If you're going to take potshots at the VRWC, try to remember who's who, okay?