Jesus of Nazareth may be joining Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez in Fresno State’s Peace Garden if a resolution that will come before Associated Students Inc. at its next meeting is adopted.
According to the author of the resolution, Senator At-Large Neil O’Brien, the statue will not be religious in nature. He sees it purely as a matter of history, not of a matter as religion.
As much as I would love to see the resolution pass, if just simply to see the rabid debate about whether to personify him in cast iron form as an aryan Northern European or a first century Jew, the argument simply doesn’t make sense.
Not only is it a clear step-around to clear separation of church and state hurdles, on par with calling the Ten Commandments a historical document in order to put statues of them on federal land, but it’s an inadvertent insult to Christians.
To put up religious icons on public land, claiming that they are solely historically based in order to sidestep First Amendment issues, strips them of their religious meaning. Rather than this empowering the Christian religion, it should be considered an affront to the faith.
Christians, those who believe that Jesus is the son of God and his physical incarnation on Earth, must truly believe that Jesus is both a historical figure and religious leader. Both titles must be carried at all times for the faith to be valid. To disregard either title for convenience undermines his status as a deity.
By saying that Jesus is to be displayed solely because of his secular historical significance is an affront to Christianity, and the belief that his historical significance is in fact derived from him being the son of God.
The logic follows that secularists and believers in any other religion such as Islam and Judaism shouldn’t be able to put up religious icons or statues of Jesus either, claiming them to be historical figures.
For the government to allow anyone to put up religious symbols or visages under those circumstances means that the government is saying that Jesus is a historical figure, and not a religious one. This means it is establishing and defining what the very nature of Jesus is.
This is in direct conflict with the First Amendment of the Constitution which clearly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
Indeed, the desire not to have religious conflict and promote a secular and plural society is why the First Amendment was adopted by the Founding Fathers to begin with. And at any level, whether it be a statue in the Peace Garden or direct state establishment of a religion, we must keep these safeguards of our liberty in place.