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OPINION: Religious Symbolism On Proposed Lake Elsinore Memorial Sparks Plea From Proud Veteran

The following open letter is a plea to the Lake Elsinore City Council from a veteran to remove all religious symbolism from the proposed memorial.

I’ve been living in this area for almost 20 years and I rarely say I’m an Atheist in public. After observing that the City of Lake Elsinore can’t even erect a memorial for veterans without adding some sort of religious symbol enhances my paranoia. 

I can understand it when an average person speaks based on misinformation, but I expect more from a committee designated to represent all our neighbors when making a decision like this. 

Here are the facts according to Defense Manpower Data Center, which works under the Office of the Secretary of Defense: Over 26 percent of military personnel indicate they are not religious, but add to that over 7,000 say they are Atheists, over 3,500 follow Islam, over 5,300 are Buddhists, over 1,300 are Agnostic, 771 are Hindu, 522 Unitarian Universalists, and almost 2,500 belong to WICCA (Witchcraft). 

One of my friends, who is a Lake Elsinore resident, a Muslim, and a five-year veteran of the Navy, is petrified to speak about being Muslim in his own city. A plan like the veterans monument subtly tells people like my friend and me that we are not welcome in the city.

I also spent three years in the Army, where I met President Clinton after a successful deployment as a U.N. Peacekeeper in the Former Yugoslavia. I later joined the National Guard for an additional five years when I finished my contract in the Army.   

Nobody is saying religions cannot exist. I would fight for the right for any religion to exist even though I’m an Atheist. I firmly believe in the right of religious freedom in America, but I also don’t understand why, if the city truly wants to honor veterans, there is a need to add any religious emblem?

Am I going to sue the city because I disagree? No. But I ask the City Council, do you want to perpetuate the feeling that my Muslim friend and I have about the City of Lake Elsinore? I served this country with pride, and I’d do it again, but that monument doesn’t represent me. I never kneeled in front of a cross and prayed after a mission. 

Eric November 30, 2012 at 12:32 AM
It's not a graven image. No one is worshiping it or making sacrifices to it, etc. You need to understand what you're reading instead of taking the words out of context for your own gain.
Sew Good November 30, 2012 at 12:57 AM
From Merriam-Webster.com the definition of > impose < transitive verb 1 a: to establish or apply by authority <impose a tax> <impose new restrictions> <impose penalties> b: to establish or bring about as if by force <those limits imposed by our own inadequacies — C. H. Plimpton> 2 a: place, set b: to arrange (as pages) in the proper order for printing 3: pass off <impose fake antiques on the public> 4: to force into the company or on the attention of another <impose oneself on others> intransitive verb : to take unwarranted advantage of something <imposed on his good nature> How does the image of a cross force/impose religion on you? I'm curious because proselytizing would be so much easier if displaying a cross was all that it took.
LarryLinn November 30, 2012 at 01:49 AM
From Merriam-Webster.com the definition of > impose < transitive verb 1 a: to establish or apply by authority <impose a tax> <impose new restrictions> <impose penalties> It uses tax dollars imposing a Christian symbol upon the non-Christian veterans and other non-Christian citizens.
LarryLinn November 30, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Gentlemen The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing. Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties. I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem. Th Jefferson Jan. 1. 1802.
Merry Hatebear December 04, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Thank you for writing this letter and to Patch posting it, thank you again. I think it is to the point and clearly shows why the cross should not be included in this memorial. I've known many folks who've served in different military and some who are still actively serving today. Of the 10 or so I've known closely only one was Christian (a Catholic). Of the rest - one was Wicca, one was Buddhist, one was an atheist and the others were non-religious/spiritual. There is great diversity among those who serve and that should be considered strongly when making monuments or memorials. Also, want to add that I am not a random outsider posting on a local topic. I live in Pasadena, CA and my children spend many weekends in the Lake Elsinore/Perris area as their grandparents live down there.

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