Monday, February 10, 2014

Reworking history - in defense of freedom

A reader of Ethical Musings asked me for my thoughts on the Los Angeles County Supervisors voting to restore a cross to the county seal for "historical correctness." (For more details on this vote, cf. "Why is L.A. County picking a fight over a cross on its seal?" in the Los Angeles Times of February 7, 2014.)

Incidentally, suggestions for Ethical Musings posts are always welcome.

The action of the LA County Supervisors is incomprehensible and reprehensible to me. First, restoring the cross to the seal seems to invite, intentionally and unambiguously, a lawsuit protesting the action. As the editorial in the Los Angeles Times points out, defending the County's actions wastes tax dollars.

Second, this is not an instance of the cross having been part of the County's seal continuously. The County had already removed the cross once. Restoring the cross serves no useful purpose because the cross, contrary to the supervisors' allegations, is not original. Furthermore, LA County is no more Christian than the rest of the nation. When convenient, we appropriately move beyond the unethical use of Christian symbols for secular purposes.

I have little sympathy with individuals and groups who wish to remove all religious symbols from public buildings, seals, etc. Such an endeavor would require renaming many places (e.g., San Francisco (St. Francis), CA), rewriting history (e.g., the Pilgrims came to America primarily for the opportunity to practice their beliefs their way and not economic opportunity), and reprinting, rebuilding, and rebranding thousands of items at a cost of billions of dollars.

On the other hand, I have little sympathy with individuals and groups who wish to promote any set of religious beliefs using public monies. Changing the seal of Los Angeles County to include a cross clearly falls into this category.

To read more in Ethical Musings on this general topic, see Setting the past right and Half-truths about healthcare and U.S. founders.


Bob Ginn said...

I agree with your points George. If historical history is the true goal I suggest they place a length of steel cable on the seal. Each strand represents different religions and beliefs. History has shown most wars are fought over religion. What Los Angeles and our country needs now .. strength through unity.

Ted said...

A good analysis of the extremes on both sides. Why can't we have a few moderates putting a stop to all these wild action?

George Clifford said...

Bob, The cable is a great idea - very appropriate symbolism!