No religious symbols on public land

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This week's ruling that San Francisco's Mount Davidson cross violates the separation of church and state signals a victory for defenders of religious freedom.

Had the cross been a menorah or Star of David, we would similarly applaud the decision.

The city has vowed to fight the ruling that its ownership of the cross violates the Constitution. Should a further appeal take place, it could be months, even years, before a resolution is reached.

Despite that potential delay, this week's ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals sends a significant message: that religious symbols are not constitutionally appropriate on government property.

The decision reinforces the philosophy that when religious symbols stand alone on city-owned land, apart from symbols of other religions, they present the appearance of government-sanctioned religious favoritism. Such a message is divisive, alienating those who don't adhere to the faith represented by the symbol.

That is among the many reasons Jewish plaintiffs in the case have cited for their opposition to the 103-foot Mount Davidson cross.

Jewish groups who oppose religious symbols on public property generally do so on principle, opposing Jewish symbols with an equal fervor.

The American Jewish Congress, one of a number of plaintiffs in the Mount Davidson case, recently sued the city of Beverly Hills for allowing a Chabad menorah to be displayed on public property.

Some people might call such an action divisive to the Jewish community. We disagree. In carving out the terrain of church-state separation, no faith can be left out of the equation.

Especially now, with the Christian right gaining power and momentum, we as Jews must recognize the importance of the fight for church-state separation — even if it means challenging our own.