This is a “Laugh and Cry” moment.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is threatening to block a Holocaust memorial in Columbus, OH … because it includes a star of David.
According to a letter sent by the Foundation’s co-presidents, Dan Barker and Annie Gaylor (PDF): “Since the Star of David is a religious symbol and a secular government is not supposed to be promoting religion, especially when there are other perfectly secular alternatives, we’re objecting to that religious symbol.”
So let me get this straight: the Freedom From Religion Foundation wants a memorial to the Holocaust … an attempt to wipe out Jewish people and Culture … to not include any Jewish symbols.
A secular alternative is needed to represent the Jewish people … who were persecuted for their religion.
It’s a profound misunderstanding of what it means to be persecuted, and an utter failure to have the common decency to see that he’s putting himself on the side of the oppressors. You cannot memorialize or honor someone by deliberately holding their identity at arms length. To demand that others do so is itself a form of tyranny.
That failure runs throughout the letter. To quote at length:
“To align the State of Ohio with one religion and its sacred symbol— even a minority religion for a worthy memorial— would dishonor the truest protection our country has against a similar Holocaust on our shores: the precious constitutional principle separating religion from government. Had there been a separation between religion and state honored and enforced in Germany, ensuring the government could not favor the dominant religion and persecute and scapegoat minority religions and other ‘dissidents,’ there would not have been a Holocaust.”
Mr. Barker, Ms. Gaylor, I respectfully submit that refusing to allow Jews to be represented by Jewish symbols is not actually going to protect us from another Holocaust. Nor was the problem with Nazi Germany the lack of a law separating church and state: it was that the government was run by Nazis. We can say authoritatively that their hatred would not have been stopped by well intentioned laws, precisely because it was not stopped by well intentioned laws.
For the Nazis, the law was only one more tool with which to kick victims: they otherwise had no use for it. The entire structure of a civilized society proved helpless to stop barbarians within the gates. Germany’s failure was not to pass good laws … it was a failure to hold our common humanity above the petty divisions that barbarism feeds upon.
By saying that holocaust victims’ identity as religious people is inconvenient to you, Mr. Barker and Ms. Gaylor, you are holding your atheism above the humanity you have in common with Jews living and dead. This is not humanism: it is factionalism.
A government sponsored holocaust memorial that includes Jewish symbolism is no more endorsing Judaism than a government sponsored slavery memorial is endorsing the manufacturing of iron chains.