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. I think Mike A. has it right about the memorial. The End.

    I do not accept that killing over 500,000 Armenians in a finite period of time was merely a product of incompetence. The Turks (who made up, by far, the majority of the Ottoman forces) should not be “rewarded” because of poor record keeping & the ability to suppress the truth for the past five decades because of Western political & military needs (i.e., NATO). The explanation of “incompetence” on a massive scale plays on the ease with which Westerners will believe in Ottoman incompetence. Yet, and despite the Ottoman’s pathetic military performance in the Balkan Wars preceding WWI, we did not see that level of “incompetence” from Ottoman forces during the Gallipoli operation. Or, for that matter, throughout the entire First World War.

    However, if an arbiter regarding the Armenian genocide is necessary, it should be incorporated into the reality show, “The Kardashians”. I, for one, think its damn well past the time when we ought to know Kim’s take on this issue!

    Anyone who believes the Serbs were engaging in genocide as the precipitant to Clinton vs. Serbia, is a fool. The post-action reports by NGO’s (& the US) failed to turn up any evidence of mass killings, etc., as thrown out by Clinton’s press secretary, and disseminated by a fawning media. Its fair to suggest evidence of those mass killings is located in the same “filing cabinet” where evidence of seized Iraqi WOMD is kept. Maybe in the same thin, very thin, file.

    And for Clintonistas and knee-jerk anti-Serbs (giving those Croats, Bosnians, et. al., a pass), I am not referencing actions during the break-up of Yugoslavia. Hmmm. For those of us who grew up with Yugoslavia on the map, although the public middle school my kids just passed through (an alleged “A” rated school) used maps that still had a big Yugoslavia in the Balkans, I guess we really took Tito for granted. It’s amazing that a single person could hold a country of such disparate interests together for over 40 yrs. And while far from a Jefferson or Madison, Tito was no Stalin or Mao.

    1. “And while far from a Jefferson or Madison, Tito was no Stalin or Mao.”

      Warspite,

      Sometimes in the hindsight of history perspective adds luster to unexpected players. Of his ilk of Dictators, Tito was a pretty good one.

    2. Warspite, While I agree with you on most of what you said, I disagree on the Armenian question for a number of reasons. I will grant the numbers of Armenians killed and that the Ottoman’s were in fact resposible for that. The reason I cannot place it on the same plane as the Holocaust or Rwanda is that there was no genocidal intent or decision made by the Ottoman’s apart from military operations. If you can show me a directive similar to the Wannsee conference which laid out the plans for the Final Solution, THEN I will agree with you. Absent that, I think that the closest thing is the Bataan Death March that was done by the Japanese. The Ottoman’s unlike the Japanese did not have the organization or resources or simple competence to move all those people without killing large numbers of them. In fact, Ottoman’s killed probably the same number of their own troops by the same means.

      The Ottoman’s also drafted large numbers of Armenians into their army too. Again, that would mitigate any genocidal intent since the Nazis most certainly did not give any Jews guns and ammo. Then there is the fact of war in their area. If the Japanese Americans had large numbers of them fighting on the side of the IJA on the US west coast, I would have endorsed FDR’s order to intern all Japanese Americans. That would have been justified and necessary. The Ottoman’s were faced with a similar situation on their eastern front against the Russians. So they simply applied the means the US used in Vietnam and evacuated the sympathetic population from what the US called free fire zones. So once again, using my criterion which I think is more reasonable than the current ones, I cannot call what the Ottomans did genocide equivalent to that of other ones. I cannot hold the current Turkish government responsible for the sins of the Ottoman either since they fought against that regime. Now if the former Sultan were still living in Istanbul, THEN I would hold them responsible since he should have been punished and if they did not that would make them culpable.

  2. “You just made the most compelling argument in favor of putting the single symbol of faith on the marker.” combined with “In this instance the Star of David transcends not only Judaism, but all religion, because it has become a universal symbol for the utter depravity of genocide.” Do you really believe that one billion Chinese, one billion sub-continent Indians, and one billion Africans see the same thing in the Star of David that you do? Abrahaimic makes up about 7/16ths of the world, and even in that fraction I doubt a majority would see it your way.

    It is neither universal nor transcendent. That belief is what Cambell wrote about regarding the power of myths, a unifying belief of a culture (using it broadly in this case to mean European or European derived) but not a belief across all cultures.

    1. “It is neither universal nor transcendent. That belief is what Cambell wrote about regarding the power of myths, a unifying belief of a culture (using it broadly in this case to mean European or European derived) but not a belief across all cultures.”

      Ariel,

      You are correct about Campbell, as you were in your comment to Randyjet. If we examine the myths that are common to the U.S. and to the Western European nations, the Star of David is intertwined inextricably with Judaism, for better or for worse.

  3. To me, the Holocaust is history. I have no more problem with it regarding Seperation than I do with a Native American religious display at a publicly funded museum or any publicly funded elsewhere (don’t, please, don’t try to maintain those sites get no government funding). I don’t consider the symbols in context endorsement.

    I don’t consider crosses on city, county, or state shields an endorsement either. In California or Arizona, it’s just an acknowledgement of history.

    However, I am against San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles (after “La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles”), San Diego, San Juan Capistrano, St. Paul (not that Paul), St. James, etc. Why we allow cities to endorse Christianity is beyond me.

    I consider the joke as weighty as the joke others make on Seperation.

  4. Mike A.
    You just made the most compelling argument in favor of putting the single symbol of faith on the marker. Even more compelling than Mike Spindell’s in some respects, for a different reason. There was some discussion of historical events and religion earlier. King David is an historical figure in all the monotheistic religions growing out of the Middle East. So his symbol is also the parent symbol of both Christianity and Islam, predating both the cross and crescent by centuries. I am good with that, and Mike S. was on point with the Nazi use of the Star of David as the first public face of the beginning of what was to become the Holocaust.

  5. As most posters here know, I’m pretty much an absolutist on separation. But I don’t believe that the proposed memorial violates the Establishment Clause. The issue is whether construction of a Holocaust memorial with private funds on government property is an unconstitutional endorsement of Judaism. I think not.

    The memorial doesn’t satisfy the Salazar endorsement test. And while the Salazar court was dealing with a memorial which had been in place for many years, and the Holocaust memorial hasn’t been built yet, I don’t find that significant. In fact, my view is that a monument on public land endorsing a particular religion is unconstitutional regardless of its longevity.

    But I don’t believe that the proposed memorial constitutes an endorsement of the Jewish faith within the meaning of the Establishment Clause. The Star of David has a peculiar historical and cultural meaning within the context of the Holocaust. That Jews were not the only victims of Nazi atrocities is not the point. The Star of David is, in my view, central to conveying the awful truths that the project memorializes, the ability and even willingness of otherwise rational human beings to attempt the extermination of an entire people out of hatred, bigotry and ignorance. In this instance the Star of David transcends not only Judaism, but all religion, because it has become a universal symbol for the utter depravity of genocide.

  6. Bob, 🙂 that’s just …. hellish! But I kind of like it.

    Gene, Ha! We should be so lucky as to have hell serve cheesecake.

  7. Ariel,

    I was referring to a statement made in my earlier response to Randyjet and not a critique of your dialogue with him regarding Armenia:

    The statement: ““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.”” by Ohio Jewish Communities Executive Director Joyce Garver Keller is the best reason to use all symbols.

    Sorry I wasn’t more clear.

  8. Pat Robertson?

    Now you’re just being mean, Bob K.

    😛

    If’n I’m gwan’ ta Hell, I think my cheesy torture should be in the form of cheesecake and a massage from Rachael Weisz.

    I might even volunteer under those conditions.

  9. lottakatz,
    “Gene, knock off the blasphemy. He of the Glorious Noodly Appendages is not happy with the macaroni and cheese reference. Cheese sauce? You will spend eternity in a vat of hot Velveeta for disrespecting the Sanctified Red Sauce.”

    Gene would enjoy that too much. FSM should find another, more suitable eternal punishment for this heretic.
    Listening to Pat Robertson, perhaps?

  10. Give it up ‘christians’ The Star of David is used as a means of Identification, in this instance, not to push a Ghod.

  11. Lottakatz,

    I’m only responding because this ” In any event I think that her justification supports a view to the contrary of her aim and on that we are probably in agreement. ” leaves me hanging, not only by who “she” is, but the “supports a view contrary of her aim”.

    The “she” because Ariel is often misinterpreted as a “she”. Arial is the feminine, Ariel the masculine. Mermaids be damned.

    Further, “her justification supports a view to the contrary of her aim” says nothing, and I don’t mean that as an insult, it just has no meat. If it was in reference to what I wrote, it could be anything I wrote. It just hangs. Was it that I have Armenians in my family? or “never call a Hopi an Apache or Navajo”? Or that the Young Turks were secularists?

  12. I agree with Mr. Erb regarding the pathetic ignorance regarding the Croat state’s murdering of Serbs. Just as in the case of Slovakia, there has been a very strong force working to keep a lid on history. However, please be aware that it was not until after the 1967 War that knowledge of the Holocaust built to the level of awareness we have today.

    The U.S. Military was remarkably insensitive regarding Jewish survivors and Jewish D.P.’s to the point of an actual scandalous situation. In fact, though not around that long during the relevant time period, Patton falls into the category of insensitivity actuated by outright anti-semitism.

    The Gypsies fall into a similar, but not identical situation as the Jews. However, there are a number of factors that have resulted in a different level of knowledge, treatment, etc. Vastly smaller numbers, an absence of of assimilation, different places within mainstream culture (then & now), and, frankly, an entirely different place in the Nazi pantheon of “enemies”, “dangers”, etc., all contribute. Even studying the Holocaust vis-a-vis Gypsies is difficult, insofar as it is dependent almost wholly on German records & the German point of view. Right, wrong, or otherwise, the near-absence of Gypsies amongst academicians or professional historians deprives the issue of enough interest and scholarship. Yes, there is some scholarship, but not nearly enough. Not even close.

  13. Randyjet, I know you said she needed to read some history but I don’t recall that it was for the same stated reason. In any event I think that her justification supports a view to the contrary of her aim and on that we are probably in agreement. It wouldn’t be an issue if it wasn’t State property since the memorial is to be built with private money. No new entanglements.

  14. davidblue, I accept and respect your philosophical take. I believe in God. And I believe that is how he sees us. However, I also know he made us different. Different fingerprints, DNA, etc. I’m a mere mortal and therefore flawed. I am proud of my heritage and don’t believe there is anything intrinsically immoral about that. I believe your point is that seeing ourselves as white, black, Jew, Hispanic, etc. is what causes so many problems. I can’t argue w/ that, because it does. But it causes problems because some people take a perverted view of their differences, believing they are different and BETTER. One can take pride in their background w/o thinking that way. I was fortunate to grow up in a pretty diverse ethnic culture. I’ve seen the good and bad. I choose to see the good in that diversity. But, to each their own.

  15. Lottakatz, Hellers statement is simply a lie. I pointed out that point in a previous post. She needs to read some history before she continues to make silly statements.

  16. Ariel, The “genocide” of the Armenians did not continue after WWI. That was the policy of the Ottoman Empire which had been defeated. What followed was a civil war in Turkey between the secular modernizing forces of Ataturk and the old regime. I have no figures on how many were killed in that, but one has to remember that the Entente powers invaded Turkey after the peace had been won, and was engaged in the civil war against Ataturk and his forces. This was a mixed affair with italians, greeks, Brits, and French all having invasion forces in Turkey. So Smyrna, Izmir, was a largely Greek city that fell to Ataturk, and as a result all the Greeks left. The same was true of many other places. In fact, my old airbase at Adana was under control of the French who were kicked out in this war. The Italians were also kicked out from central coastal Turkey.

    You also don’t know that the Young Turks were pre-WWI, not after. So I suggest you read a good bio of Ataturk since he was one of the most remarkable figures in 20th Century history and he hated Islam and got rid of it in most parts of Turkish life and modernized Turkey by force of his personality. He did promote re-settlement of Turks and Greeks from the parts of Turkey and Greece which had mixed populations. In fact, Ataturk was born in what is now Greece, Thesolaniki.

    1. randyjet,

      The Young Turks were secularists. The Ottomans were not. I did not mean that Ottoman then Young Turks, but that both participated. It wasn’t solely the old Ottoman empire.

      “but one has to remember that the Entente powers invaded Turkey after the peace had been won, and was engaged in the civil war against Ataturk and his forces. This was a mixed affair with italians, greeks, Brits, and French all having invasion forces in Turkey. So Smyrna, Izmir, was a largely Greek city that fell to Ataturk, and as a result all the Greeks left. The same was true of many other places. In fact, my old airbase at Adana was under control of the French who were kicked out in this war. The Italians were also kicked out from central coastal Turkey.” And none of that has any bearing on the Turks continuing a policy of eradicating Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks. What you’re confusing is “leaving” with “killing”; you and I would “leave” if we were of an ethnic or racial group they were killing. Genocide is not only to wipe-out but to drive-out. If the Jews had left Europe in 1936…

      I noticed you did not reply to the comparison of Turk policy to FDR’s Internment.

      For the sake of disclosure, and to give you a poor hook to hang your hat, I have Armenians in my family, though I’ve long ago lost contact. I consider the Turkish killing of Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks, the first genocide of the 20th Century. Even when overcoming my bias, I still see a genocide.

      I also see Stalin’s starvation of the Ukrainians as a genocide, while noting that they weren’t the first, just the largest numbers.

      As an aside, I have mixed thoughts on the American treatment of the Amerinids, because the treatment was mixed. But more because of this lumping of all NA tribes into one. It’s like saying if you eradicated all Basques you committed genocide on the Spaniards, or French. NA tribes were exterminated, specifically in California, but that has no bearing on the the other tribes. NAs are no more one people than Europeans or Asians or Africans. Or for that matter part of the tribes of Mexico, Central America, or South America.

      Never call a Hopi an Apache or Navajo. The Tohono O’odham take real exception to all three.

      1. Ariel, I differ with the definition of genocide as put forward in international laws now. It is too broad, and cheapens what happened in the real Holocausts. I define it as being a concerted effort by a government to wipe a people out completely based on their nationality or race. The Nazi Holocaust fits that definition as do the events in Rwanda. There are too many other mass murders and uprooting of people that do not come close to those, and to put them in the same category is wrong. The Armenian “genocide” was not an attempt to kill all Armenians in that part of the world. In fact, it was more of a military measure caused by WWI. As I pointed out in a previous post, FDRs imprisoning Japanese Americans was not close to that, but it would have had the same results as what was done to the Armenians if the Ottoman’s had been in charge since they were incompetent, lazy, and corrupt. They could not even supply their own troops, much less Armenians, and thus the mass killings. Now we can debate whether or not this was a stated policy, which I do not think it was. Unlike the Bataan Death March, the Japanese DELIBERATELY killed the POWs since they had the organization and means to prevent those deaths. The Japanese General paid with his life for that one. A better way to think of what happened is to ask what would have happened if the Japanese Americans had made up a couple of divisions and fought with the IJA on the west coast? I think that the US would have done much as the Turks did in the case of fighting after WWI when the Armenians were fighting against the Turks with the French.

        As for the Ukranians, I don’t think that was a genocide at all since the forced collectivization fell on ALL Soviets and resulted in famine for all. Stalin was an equal opportunity killer. If we are to grant the definitions of genocide as you want, then the US, Bill Clinton, NATO, and Wesley Clark should have been on trial with Milosevic for genocide. The Croatians killed and forced out over 300,000 Serbs from the Kraina in Croatia. Then the US forced out over 200,000 Serbs from part of SERBIA, ie. Kosovo in their campaign of ethnic cleansing. So I would be very wary of making too broad a definition of genocide. It will gore your oxen too.

        1. randyjet,

          This “You also do not know that the point of the Armenian “genocide” was NOT to exterminate them,but to do what FDR did in WWII to the Japanese Americans. WWI was going on at the time, and the Armenians were actively supporting the Russians in hopes of getting a homeland at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. Thus the Ottomans decided to remove them from the war front. They could have cared less about Armenians being decadent since the Ottomans perfected that art. In fact, it would have created some sympathy for them if anything.” does not match this “The Armenian “genocide” was not an attempt to kill all Armenians in that part of the world. In fact, it was more of a military measure caused by WWI. As I pointed out in a previous post, FDRs imprisoning Japanese Americans was not close to that, but it would have had the same results as what was done to the Armenians if the Ottoman’s had been in charge since they were incompetent, lazy, and corrupt.” Now there may be a comment that recounciles the two, and I’ll gladly go there at your direction, but at this point I have two near irreconcilable comments from you.

          “As for the Ukranians, I don’t think that was a genocide at all since the forced collectivization fell on ALL Soviets and resulted in famine for all.” No, it didn’t, not in equal proportion. The Ukraine was the bread basket for the Soviets, and the starvation that happened there was because Stalin (ie, the whole apparatus) pulled food from there purposely to an extent that caused the deaths of roughly 5 million Ukranians. The Ukranians were the one people that fought collectivization over all others and Stalin made a point with them. They were the one group he purposely starved. They died in larger numbers because the food they produced was taken from them and no food was allowed back in to alleviate the starvation. It was purposeful to break, by killing, a region against collectivization.

          The collectivization you’re referring to is known as the “terror-famine” of 1929 to 1933. It was not equal, and it was almost solely the Ukraine.

          You may have a reticence to use the label “genocide”, but there are really clear incidents in the early 20th Century where a government set out to reduce or destroy a population within their border. The Turks and the Soviets did just that. The Serbs did that (I know the antecedents with the Croats and Bosnians). It isn’t justifiable.

          I don’t like the modern usage of genocide either, it seems to lack the intent and the concerted effort needed to fulfill that intent by means, but the Turks and the Soviets had both.

          1. “I am good with that, and Mike S. was on point with the Nazi use of the Star of David as the first public face of the beginning of what was to become the Holocaust.”

            OS,

            Actually Nick gets credit for making that point on this thread and in doing so he changed my mind.

  17. The problem isn’t determining which groups qualify but the fact that the memorial is on State property. Any other method of secularizing the memorial by using all symbols is to use no symbols.

    The statement: ““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.”” by Ohio Jewish Communities Executive Director Joyce Garver Keller is the best reason to use all symbols.

    If there has to be an exception contemplated or a justification for only one planned symbol then there is an obvious conflict with the separation doctrine.

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