I would like to begin by saying that I appreciate the sensitivity of my colleagues on this issue who believe this bill is all about veterans. I, too, have a deep appreciation of our veterans and the sacrifices they have made for our nation and our freedoms.
If this bill were nothing more than a veterans' issue, we would have a very simple decision before us today. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
The courts have told us time and time again what this issue is about - it is about a demonstrated preference of one religion over all others. It is about a uniquely religious symbol on public land.
Make no mistake about it - this bill is not about preserving a veterans' memorial. It is about preserving a 29-foot cross that sits within the boundaries of a veterans memorial -- a veterans memorial that is supposed to honor all veterans.
Yet towering over the American flag and the plaques, names and photos of honored veterans, is a 29-foot symbol of one religion.
And that is why we are here today.
A District Court ruling on the memorial noted, "Even if one strains to view the cross in the context of a war memorial, its primary effect is to give the impression that only Christians are being honored."
I can certainly understand the emotion that this issue has generated. But as today's discussion has proven, this issue has become more about a cross than about a veterans memorial.
And our focus should be on the veterans.
And it should be inclusive of all veterans.
But don't just take my word for it.
I'd like to take a moment to share the words of one of my constituents, who says,
"My father, a bronze star recipient for being wounded twice during D-Day, died a few years back and I would like to pay tribute to his service to our country by purchasing a plaque to honor him.
"Mount Soledad is one mile from where I live and would be the most logical choice, given its beautiful location and proximity. However, my father, being a practicing Jew, would be dishonored by the cross.
"Shouldn't a war memorial pay homage to ALL who served and defended this country? It is un-American to create a memorial to veterans which is not ALL INCLUSIVE.
"There are many things which could be erected as a tribute, but a cross, a crescent moon, a statue of Buddah or a Star of David are completely inappropriate and illegal.
"This is ALL about religion because if the monument being considered were a statue of a dove or a solder, we would not even be having this conversation."
I fully understand the sensitivity of this issue. And it would be easy to vote with the majority on this issue. But the easiest decision - or the most popular one - is not always the right one.
In the words of James Fenimore Cooper:
"It is a besetting vice of democracies to substitute public opinion for law. This is the usual form in which masses of men exhibit their tyranny."
The beauty of our Constitution is that it protects the voice of the minority.
I ask you to join me in protecting that minority today by opposing this bill.