Holocaust Memorial At Ohio State Capital Raises Objections Over Separation of Church and State

20130717_CSRAB_ProposedHolocaustMemorialDesignThere is an interesting potential lawsuit brewing in Ohio over a Holocaust memorial that will feature a prominent Star of David on the Ohio Statehouse lawn. The memorial, designed by Daniel Libeskind, has been criticized as violation by the separation of church and state by civil libertarians. The case could present a perfect vehicle to explore the meaning of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Salazar v. Buono in 2010 where a sharply divided court allowed a cross to remain on public lands as a memorial for the dead of World War I.


The Holocaust Memorial has been approved by the Capital Square Review and Advisory Board and will be built with $1.8 million in private funds. It is the Star of David that makes the design so controversial. Ohio Jewish Communities Executive Director Joyce Garver Keller, however, insisted that the symbol is a warning about the dangers of abuse in legislatures: “The Holocaust did not start in concentration camps. It did not begin with the ovens and smokestacks. It began in the halls of government, with laws being passed by a democratically-elected government that took away rights of Jews and others, and eventually let to the holocaust.”

However, the Freedom From Religion Foundation argues that there were at least five million non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust, including gays, Jehovah Witnesses, Roma Gypsies, and the disabled. They object to the need for a prominent religious symbol. Keller insists that while the memorial features the defining symbol of the Jewish faith, it memorializes everyone.

That rationale tracks the decision in Salazar v. Buono, where the Court voted that a cross placed as a memorial on public lands for soldiers who died in World War I. The Ninth Circuit has ruled the cross unconstitutional. The district court also found a violation but the Court narrowly ruled that the specific facts of the case allowed the cross to pass constitutional muster:

By dismissing Congress’s motives as illicit, the District Court took insufficient account of the context in which the statute was enacted and the reasons for its passage. Private citizens put the cross on Sunrise Rock to commemorate American servicemen who had died in World War I. Although certainly a Christian symbol, the cross was not emplaced on Sunrise Rock to promote a Christian message. Cf. County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, 492 U. S. 573, 661 (1989) (KENNEDY, J., concurring in judgment in part and dissenting in part) (“[T]he [Establishment] Clause forbids a city to permit the permanent erection of a large Latin cross on the roof of city hall . . . because such an obtrusive year-round religious display would place the government’s weight behind an obvious effort to proselytize on behalf of a particular religion”). Placement of the cross on Government-owned land was not an attempt to set the imprimatur of the state on a particular creed. Rather, those who erected the cross intended simply to honor our Nation’s fallen soldiers.

It was a splintered decision with three different rationales and a narrow margin of 5-4 on the Court. However, unlike the Ohio case, the cross was not put on the property by order of the government and had been at the location for decades.

The Salazar decision signaled an effort at greater accommodation for religious symbols that are used for a broader meaning than an “imprimatur on a particular creed.” However, the Ohio dispute presents a closer question. There are various artistic expressions possible for the Holocaust, which extended to both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities. Yet, this Star of David is expressed artistically in the design. Yet, the fear is that such accommodation will create a slippery slope for other religions. For years, Christian groups have fought to add crosses to public areas. They could do so by calling such displays memorials. As other religions demand their own prominent symbols, we could be left with the dangerous selection of one religion over another.

Notably, the vote was 8-1 with Richard Finan, chairman of the advisory board and former president of the Ohio Senate, voting against it on separation grounds.

It is an ironic twist. Jewish groups have long joined civil libertarians to oppose Christian symbols on the basis of separation of powers principles. As some argue now with regard to the Star of David in Ohio, Christian groups insisted that the cross means more than just Christianity. Many Americans believe that the entanglement of government and religion is the greatest threat to liberty. This case could further lower the wall of separation of church and state if successful. It is an ironic twist given the purpose of reminding people of the threat of abuse of minority groups by the government. That symbol itself can only be maintained by expanding the ability of the government to erect religious symbols.

This case could have the elements missing in Salazar — a new memorial put up by the government through a direct approval and construction plan. The Court stressed in the decision that “Time also has played its role. The cross had stood on Sunrise Rock for nearly seven decades before the statute was enacted.” Time has played no role here. This may all play out in court and the result could have great implications for the line drawn of separation between church and state.

Source: NBC

112 thoughts on “Holocaust Memorial At Ohio State Capital Raises Objections Over Separation of Church and State”

  1. even lee trevino had it right. even god has trouble hitting a one iron.
    in fact i snapped the head off on the tee box, and had to use a wedge to get to the fairway.
    so jonathan if anybody goes out in a thunder storm and holds their one iron up and runs for the clubhouse, and I don’t hit it, is it their lucky their day

  2. Mr. Erb:

    While I don’t agree, I do not find your perspective entirely unreasonable. It’s a problem still subject to considerable academic debate, so I hope we can agree to disagree regarding problems in interpreting the mass killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

    And again, the Vatican’s role in diverting attention from the situations in wartime Croatia (a willing ally of Nazi Germany) and Slovakia, are typical of what the Catholic Church has been (mostly) able to get away with since 1945. They have used their favorite technique against American researchers, seizing relevant documents and locking them away in Vatican archives, quite effectively.

    Different subject. You know how in the middle of a legitimate debate some posting will begin normal and then go into an ad for a pornographic site? I have noticed the religious postings by certain folks are highly reminiscent in overall style and approach to the aforementioned.

  3. jon! it also says:
    the air will move around him and the pope is in brazil
    he would take great care in public so as not to…
    he would be imprisioned and inter tain himself with a bug, and his captors… (TC<MI)… would say he he was crazy
    the prophet will knot reveal himself till after the wrapture
    jesus would be on the earth for many years
    and he would show them a miracall that would leaf them to doubt it were true
    it would take place from those that leafed him in a daze
    that he would show a family member just the same and s.a. nothing for years
    nobody would know what the prey-in man"is
    knowing that it would take years for the prophecies takeplace'…
    not to covet thy neighbors sheep
    his wife also may be ill
    the farmer may be ill
    would a shep-heard ( with a little george of the jungle twist of is that you shep) he would leaf the ninetenn eye mean 99 for the ewe missed one july 66 also
    about the second coming bi the father so what happened in 66
    the prophet will roam
    god will give to a mna everything that he wants
    he will be given an awesome power
    satan will attept to usrp the powers of god
    if you deny jesus on earth you deny him in heaven
    an alternate universe will be made known
    to save them
    all will all be judged by the father
    his rite things will come under great scrutinknee
    they will all turn to god in the end…(which is wraped sure)
    their will be a war that they will never forget
    change one thing and you change every thing
    the father in heaven is always knowing about the second coming
    the chosen ones word is law after many yearsof…
    they will all see a sing and question it's
    you will not know him when…
    many miracles will happen and not be known
    the false prophet ' ill be everywhere
    they will all become prophets
    knot knowing what to do in the eyes of god
    they are doing everything to destroy the prophet the prophet will send in his hair is post all the subjects written on this site

    with all the things above jonathin sum than is missing
    he would be hewn from fine lumber is also written.

    they will see their world crumble down around them
    so i'm posting now
    those who speak against god will see hell on earth
    jonathan, is thi,s'ewer prrrroblem names egoh

  4. As others have stated, the Holocaust was not a Jewish-only horror.
    Take the freaking religious symbol down and save hundreds of thousands if not more in silly legal fights that only cause anger, hatred, and distrust. Such lawsuits will only harm relations between goy/non-goy.

    Adding the symbol does not improve the memorial, nor does it remove detract from its message.

  5. Jonathan…. Are you for the pharaoh or Moses…. Are you for the Jews or Jesus….. I’m confused….

  6. Mike, There is a 94 year old Ukraine in the Twin Cities being accused of being part of the SS. The Twin Cities has a large Ukraine population and this allegation has them reeling. There was a large Ukraine population in my town. They had a cemetery a block from my house where I would go to smoke cigs. Some of the first anti-Semitic remarks I remember hearing was eating supper in the homes of Ukraine friends. These folks are DEVOUT Eastern Orthodox Catholics. The aforementioned 94 year old carpenter is very active in the church. I have long thought the rigid Catholicism of Ukrainians is a large part of their anti- Semitism.

  7. The mention of judaism on that memorial is less of a problem than the complete lack of mention of the Nazis and their christianity. The vast majority of 20th and 21st century genocides were perpetrated in the name of religion, whether the Nazis, imperial Japan, Turkey, Thailand and Burma, the Nakba genocide in Palestine, India, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sudan, and many others. Why does the world try to avoid any mention of the perpetrators and their motivations?

    Those who forget history may be doomed to repeat it. But those who rewrite history are trying to repeat it.

  8. Are established beliefs as to what is, and is not, “religious” themselves actually religious beliefs?

    What if religion, as a neuro-biological phenomenon (and not merely as a social phenomenon) is merely how human brains deal with whatever has been partially, but not yet completely, understood?

    Perhaps it may be usefully wise to review the work of Emile Durkheim regarding the sociology of religion?

  9. “I define it as being a concerted effort by a government to wipe a people out completely based on their nationality or race.”

    I agree with your definition of Genocide, but assert that what happened to the Armenians fits your definition, despite whatever reasons the Ottomans put out for their actions. This is based on documentaries that I’ve seen and on things that I’ve read. We interpret the same situation differently, so be it.

    I’m not qualified to comment on the Ukrainians because I’ve read little of their history within the Soviet Union. In this I must admit my prejudice as a Jew. The Ukraine was among the most horrible regions for Jews. The anti-Jewish sentiment ran high and the Ukraine’s had many fight for Hitler. Now this of course is said with the perspective that they hated the Russians, but to me the hatred feels the same even if it was a case of “the enemy of my enemy….” I admit that as a Jew I have my own particular prejudice. I will not drive a German Car, or buy German products, even though I know much has changed there. By the same token I would not visit Germany. I won’t see a Mel Gibson movie either and I used to like his acting. This is a fact of humanity in that being the target of prejudice does not necessarily ennoble a member of that group. We are all human, yet that only limns our ability to target other humans irrationally.

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