ACLJ: Fighting atheists to save the U.S. Marines’ Camp Pendleton Memorial Crosses

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is a leader in standing up for religious liberty and freedom of speech, under constant attack in America now. Last fall, the ACLJ intervened in the Camp Pendleton Memorial Cross controversy.


Examiner In honor of their fallen comrades, a number of Marines erected two memorial crosses, only to have the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers threaten them with a lawsuit.

According to this atheist group, allowing fellow Marines to raise two crosses sends a message of “exclusion” to others. Apparently, incapable of comprehending or unwilling to admit it, these atheists fail to mention that a refusal to allow Marines to honor their comrades in the form of a memorial cross, is itself, an utter act of “exclusion”.  It is a brazen exercise of intolerance; the very kind of intolerance many dishonestly accuse religious institutions of exercising.

As a result of this hostile act by the atheist organization, the ACLJ was compelled to write a letter to the Commanding Officer at Camp Pendleton, clearly explaining why the crosses do not violate either federal law or the constitution.

Scott Radetski, Karen Mendoza, Jon Gross and Shannon Book work to carry a 13-foot cross to the top of a mountain at Camp Pendleton on Nov. 10 to recognize those Marines who have fallen or been wounded in combat. The original cross was carried up by seven people, and three of those original seven were killed in combat in Iraq. Radetski was a chaplain during the battle for Fallujah, Mendoza's husband was killed in combat, and Gross and Book also served in Iraq during the battle for Fallujah.

In the letter, the ACLJ cites the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, which states “Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion”, noting that this simply means that the government may not “endorse” any one particular religion over another.  It does NOT mean that government has the authority to deny the free religious exercise of the individual, nor the individual’s freedom of expression.

The letter also points that the simple fact that an individual may “feel uncomfortable” upon viewing a cross does not constitute government endorsement of a particular religion. Initiating a petition, the ACLJ was able to gather the signature 45,000 Americans.

The ultimate decision lies in the hands of the Commandant of the U. S. Marine Corp, and, according to the ACLJ that decision is now imminent.  The decision could come down any day now.

Apparently, if the crosses are allowed to stay, the MAAF has already signaled that they will follow up with a lawsuit.