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Last updated: 8th March 2011
First published: 8th March 2011
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer
Each Sunday from sunrise to sunset, a temporary memorial appears next to the world-famous pier at Santa Monica, California. This memorial, known as Arlington West, a project of Veterans For Peace, offers visitors a graceful, visually and emotionally powerful, place for reflection.A Wikipedia article about Arlington West explains:
The memorial in Santa Barbara, California, which was first put together on November 2, 2003 by local activist Stephen Sherrill, was soon adopted by the local chapter of Veterans for Peace. It is installed each Sunday by a team of volunteers on the beach immediately west of Stearns Wharf. Visitors walking to the tourist attractions on the wharf have a clear view, from the boardwalk, along the beach with the white crosses in the foreground. From the walkway, visitors can see a flag-draped coffin and more than 3,000 crosses, made of wood, which are intended to resemble and represent traditional military grave markers. In addition to the simulated graveyard, a placard listing all the fallen American military personnel since the U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq is prominently displayed; this list is updated weekly. Due to logistical constraints, the number of new crosses was halted at just over 3000 even though the latest death toll has exceeded 4400. Adjacent to the placards is a sign containing the message: "At 3000 crosses, the Arlington West Memorial is 141 feet wide and 310 feet long. A memorial for the Iraqi dead would be 141 feet wide and 12.8 miles long."The following YouTube video provides further details about the Arlington West project:
The second Arlington West was installed in Santa Monica, California on February 15, 2004, a Sunday. It was built on the sand just north of the pier at Santa Monica Beach, "as a way to acknowledge the costs and consequences of the addiction to war as an instrument of international policy" (quote from Veterans for Peace). Like the initial memorial in Santa Barbara, it has been reinstalled each Sunday and Fourth of July since its inception.
The ACLU has never pursued the removal of religious symbols from personal gravestones. In fact, following lawsuits filed by the ACLU and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Department of Veterans Affairs agreed to allow family members to include a religious symbols on headstones.Claim: The ACLU has filed a suit to end prayer in the military completely.
The ACLU has long argued that veterans and their families should be free to choose religious symbols on military headstones -- whether Crosses, Stars of David, Pentacles, or other symbols -- and that the government should not be permitted to restrict such religious expression in federal cemeteries.
"Members of the military have a right to pray or not pray as they personally see fit, and that right is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. It is one of the fundamental rights they put their lives on the line to defend in service to their country," said Jeon. "But the government should not be in the business of compelling religious observance, particularly in military academies, where students can feel coerced by senior students and officials and risk the loss of leadership opportunities for following their conscience."The press release about the letter also notes:
In the letter, Jeon makes clear that the ACLU opposes compulsory religious services mandated by the government, not voluntary religious exercises by Academy midshipmen.Claim: Navy Chaplains can no longer mention Jesus' name in prayer thanks to the ACLU and our new administration.
Praying in Jesus’ NameAnother long running hoax message claims that an ACLU spokesperson named "Lucius Traveler" objected to a group of US Marines bowing their heads in prayer during a military ceremony. However, the ACLU has denied any knowledge of a spokesperson by that name.
Also false is the e-mail’s claim that "[t]he Navy Chaplains can no longer mention Jesus’ name in prayer thanks to the retched [sic] ACLU and our new administration."
Later versions of this e-mail corrected the misspelling of "wretched" but still mangled the facts about the case of former Navy Chaplain Gordon J. Klingenschmitt, to which the message likely alludes. A favorite of religious conservatives, Klingenschmitt accused his Navy superiors of pushing chaplains to offer generic, nonsectarian prayers. On his Web site, where he now solicits donations, news interviews and speaking engagements, he describes himself as "The Navy Chaplain who dared to pray ‘in Jesus’ name’ " and says he was "court-martialed for praying in Jesus’ name in uniform outside the White House." He accuses the Navy of "anti-Jesus persecution of chaplains."
Actually, the Navy court-martialed Klingenschmitt for disobeying an order. He appeared – in uniform – with others at a news conference to protest the president’s inaction on his complaints against the Navy. The event was in Lafayette Square, just across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. Klingenschmitt said he was merely offering a public prayer. The military prosecutor said Klingenschmitt had been ordered not to wear his uniform at media events or political protests, and that the event was not a true worship service. A jury of five officers found him guilty of disobeying a lawful order and punished him with a reprimand and temporary reduction in pay. He left the Navy soon after.
Regardless of the merits or demerits of Klingenschmitt’s case, the ACLU had nothing to do with it. ACLU spokesman Will Matthews told us in an exchange of e-mails that "the ACLU was never involved in the case of Gordon Klingenschmitt." In our research we’ve uncovered no news accounts that describe any role by the ACLU.
Furthermore, Klingenschmitt’s removal from the Navy was not the doing of "the new administration," as this e-mail claims. Klingenschmitt’s court-martial took place in 2006. The president who was in the White House, and whose support Klingenschmitt unsuccessfully sought, was George W. Bush.