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A Jew Fights for the Cross

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Dennis Prager hosts a radio talk show heard in Los Angeles on 870 KRLA. He is a columnist, author of four books and teaches the Torah at the University of Judaism.

Here is a description of the seal of Los Angeles County, before the Board of Supervisors approved an official redesign to avoid an ACLU lawsuit. See if anything offends you.

There are six small panels, three going up and down on each side of the seal’s central figure.

Top left: engineering instruments.

Middle left: a Spanish galleon.

Bottom left: a tuna representing the fishing industry.

Top right: oil derricks.

Middle right: the Hollywood Bowl, along with two stars representing the movie industry and one small cross

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Bottom right: a prize cow.

The central figure, the largest object on the seal: Pomona, the Roman goddess of gardens and fruit trees.

Anything disturb you enough to demand that the seal be redesigned?

Probably not. For the overwhelming majority of millions of Los Angeles County residents over the last 50 years, this seal aroused no opposition.

But a few months ago someone with a magnifying glass at the American Civil Liberties Union saw that the smallest item on the seal was a cross. And in its aim to expunge any trace of Christianity and God from American public life, the ACLU brought this fact to the attention of the five Los Angeles County supervisors. Three were equally horrified and voted within days to erase the cross and redesign the seal, which now depicts a building with no Christian symbol in place of the cross.

When I learned of the impending vote of the supervisors, I asked Los Angeles listeners of my syndicated radio show to join me in a protest at this rewriting of Los Angeles County history. Which is what it was -- in the official words of the county, the cross represented “the influence of the church and the missions of California.” Los Angeles was founded by Catholics who also gave the county its Christian name.

About 2,000 people showed up on a workday morning, many of them non-Christians, including atheists, Buddhists and a fair number of Jews (non-Orthodox and Orthodox). It was probably the first time in history that Jews have banded to protect the Christian cross. It is an achievement of which the ACLU should be proud. Its devotion to secularizing what has always been a Judeo-Christian society is helping unite Judeo and Christian as nothing before.

The ACLU and its three allies -- Supervisors Gloria Molina, Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and Zev Yaroslavsky -- probably did not know what a whirlwind they would stir. Like most people on the left, they dismissed opposition to erasing God and Christianity from the public square as the work of a fanatical fringe of Christians. Perhaps the recent presidential election is beginning to make them aware that, at least statistically speaking, it is they, the aggressively secular, who are the fringe group.

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I am asked why, as a Jew, I have led this fight to keep the cross on the county seal.

I have three responses.

First, I fear those who rewrite history.

As a graduate student at Columbia University’s Russian Institute, I learned that a major characteristic of totalitarian regimes is their frequent rewriting of history. As a famous Soviet dissident joke put it: “In the Soviet Union, the future is known; it’s the past which is always changing.” Given the relationship between changing the past and totalitarianism, those who love liberty ought to be frightened by the action of the ACLU and the Board of Supervisors.

Second, I fear intolerance. And the move to expunge the singular Christian contribution to Los Angeles County is intolerant to the point of bigotry. No religious Christians, despite their deep opposition to paganism, ever objected to the pagan goddess that is many times larger than the cross. I have found over and over that most Christians are more tolerant than most leftists who preach tolerance.

Third, and most important, I fear the removal of the Judeo-Christian foundation of our society. This is the real battle of our time, indeed the civil war of our time. The left wants the United States to become secular like Western Europe, not remain the Judeo-Christian country it has always been. But unlike the left, I do not admire France, Belgium and Sweden. And that is what the battle over the seal of Los Angeles County is ultimately about. It is not about separation of church and state. It is about separation of Los Angeles from its history. And it is about separation of the nation from its moral foundations.

That is what this American, this Jew, and millions of others believe is at stake in the left’s attempt to impose a redesign of the Los Angeles County seal and thereby redesign America.

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