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Editorial: Making a desert in Belle Plaine

The Caledonian chieftain Calgacus is supposed to have said of the attacking Roman Empire, with its unquenchable desire for conquest, “they make a desert and call it peace.”

The phrase comes to mind with the news that Belle Plaine here in Minnesota has had to withdraw a veterans memorial with a cross on it rather than allow Satanists to make a mockery of such memorials with a “contribution” of their own.

One memorial was created by a local veteran and donated by the Belle Plaine Vets Club and represents values that are a major part of Minnesota’s heritage. The other? It is the antithesis of that heritage and was obviously commissioned for the sole purpose of doing what it did — using a faux equality to render displaying the first memorial so utterly distasteful that it would be removed.

They made a desert and called it peace. No trace of religion, no matter how non-coercive and inoffensive, could be permitted to exist in the public square.

The notion that the ACLU-style account of separation of church and state coming out of the U.S. Supreme Court is inherent in America’s founding and the First Amendment is, to be blunt, a secularist fairy tale.

The idea that a city or state has to have absolute neutrality between religion and irreligion, between expressions on public property that reflect religious belief and expressions that mock it, was alien to U.S. law and practice until the Everson vs. Board of Education decision of 1947. In fact, in the early decades of the United States, there were full-fledged, established religions in some states, and it was perfectly constitutional, even if most people today would not deem it perfectly wise. (And on that score, it’s worth noting that England, for instance, has an established religion to this day, and it’s hardly a theocracy.)

We are often presented with the idea that what we have now represents neutrality, with the government refusing to choose between religious perspectives. This, too, is an increasingly obvious farce. As Archbishop Jose Gomez noted when we was appointed Archbishop of Los Angeles in 2010: “‘Practical atheism’ has become the de facto state religion in America.”

It is this de facto state religion that defines “health care” to mean killing unborn babies and the suffering, that defines the human reproductive system to have nothing to do with human reproduction, that defines “religious freedom” as forcing nuns to pay for other people’s contraception, and on and on. This de facto state religion is happy and eager to impose its norms and standards on anyone who disagrees.

There is no doubt we live in a rapidly secularizing society, one that is increasingly hostile to its own religious heritage. It’s entirely possible that a plurality of Americans want the state religion to be practical atheism.

But then let’s not kid ourselves that it’s all about live-and-let-live, all about freedom, or any of that other nonsense. What we are looking at is a form of conquest that has little room for dissent and every intention of acting as if another way of life never existed.