Have you ever known someone who is so fanatic about something that they lose all sense of reason and common sense when it comes to the target of the fanaticism?
If not, meet Peter Eliasberg, an attorney who serves as the Legal Director of the ACLU of Southern California. According to his bio on the ACLU website:
“During his tenure Peter has worked on cases involving the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, disability discrimination, and educational equity, among others. He represented Frank Buono in federal district court, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court in an Establishment Clause challenge to the presence of a cross on federal land in Buono v. Salazar.”
I believe that it was the Buono v. Salazar case that possibly started Eliasberg’s fanaticism to remove every cross from America, no matter how historic it is or what it really represents.
In 1934, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Joshua Tree Post 2884 erected a wooden cross on Sunrise Rock in the Mohave Desert on National Park Service land. Along with the cross, they placed signs that read:
“The Cross, Erected in Memory of the Dead of All Wars.”
“Erected 1934 by Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars, Joshua Tree post 2884.”
The Mojave Memorial Cross eventually succumbed to the weather and was replaced by a metal cross in 1998. The wooden signs also deteriorated and when Henry Sandoz erected the new metal cross, there was no signs indicating that it was a war memorial. Additionally, Sandoz did not receive permission from the National Park Service to erect the new metal cross.
In 2001, former National Park Service employee Frank Buono filed a lawsuit against the government claiming that the cross erected on government land was a violation of the so-called Establishment Clause. Eliasberg took up the cause for Buono on behalf of the ACLU.
There is a long legal history on this case that you can read about on numerous websites. The case eventually went to the US Supreme Court where Eliasberg was so zealous in his hatred of the Mojave Memorial Cross that he used false information when he answered a question asked him by Chief Justice John Roberts. Roberts chastised Eliasberg for his erroneous response and the ACLU lost their case and the Mojave Memorial Cross was allowed to stand.
Now Eliasberg is screaming lawsuit against another cross that has nothing to do with the promotion of any religion. This time he is targeting the placement of a cross on the top of an image of the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel on the Los Angeles County Seal.
In 2004, LA county supervisors adopted a new seal that eliminated the images of a cross and the Roman goddess Pomona. The replaced the Pomona with an image of an Indian woman and the section that contained the cross was replaced with an image of the Mission at San Gabriel, minus the cross that sits atop the mission.
The Los Angeles area was initially settled by Franciscan friars. In 1771, they erected the mission at San Gabriel. This was one of the earliest missions in the area and is of historic significance to the Los Angeles county area.
Last week, 3 of the 5 LA county supervisors voted to put the cross on top of the image of the mission so as to make it a more accurate portrayal of the historic site that played an important part in the early days of the area.
Surprisingly, one of the county supervisors who voted for the cross was Mark Ridley-Thomas. Thomas is a liberal and former board member of the ACLU of Southern California. He also once served as the leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Los Angeles.
The moment the board passed the motion to correct the image of the mission on their seal, Eliasberg began screaming lawsuit. Like the Mojave Memorial Cross, the LA County Seal has nothing to do with the promotion of or establishment of a religion. It is simply correcting the representation of a historic landmark, but that’s completely intolerable to Eliasberg. He never seemed to object to the mission (a place of worship) being placed on the seal, only the addition of the cross on top of it. His fanaticism doesn’t allow him to comprehend the real reason behind the cross being added to the seal.
Hopefully, the LA County Board of Supervisors will stand their ground against Eliasberg’s attack and keep the cross atop the mission. And hopefully the courts will understand their reasoning of being historically accurate and will allow it stay.