If atheists have their way, U.S. Marines can fight for freedom--they just can't exercise it. That fact was made painfully clear last week, when four Marines climbed a steep hill at Camp Pendleton on Veterans' Day, determined to build a tribute to their fallen brothers. They brought a cross, 13-feet tall, to replace one that was lost in a wildfire in 2003. "We wanted them all to know that they'll always be in our hearts, that they'll never be forgotten," said Staff Sargeant Justice Rettenberger. Unfortunately, what they'll most be remembered for is sparking another controversy over religious expression on government property. The Marines spent two hours physically carrying the cross to the peak, and that same day, the Los Angeles Times published an inspiring story about their climb and the heroes they dedicated it to.
That drew some unwanted attention from a group called the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF), which demanded the cross come down. Its location,they argued, "makes us feel like the federal government privileges Christianity over non-Christians like us, makes us feel like second-class citizens." In the Marines' defense, Camp Pendleton said the men were "acting as individuals, not as representatives of the military." Even so, the base's officials did agree to review the matter internally. Unfortunately, this is the effect of an administration intent on driving faith out of the public square. The families who lost so much are forced to lose more: the honorable expression of their sacrifice. I commend these young Marines for commemorating those who've given their lives in the effort to obtain and preserve freedom for others. I've climbed those hills at Camp Pendleton and getting a cross to the top of them is no small challenge. Sadly, the greater challenge is to ensure radical secularists don't crucify on the cross of political correctness the freedoms won by the heroic efforts of the men and women who serve.