I’ve been living in this area for almost 20 years and I rarely say I’m an Atheist in public. After observing that the City of Lake Elsinore can’t even erect a memorial for veterans without adding some sort of religious symbol enhances my paranoia.
I can understand it when an average person speaks based on misinformation, but I expect more from a committee designated to represent all our neighbors when making a decision like this.
Here are the facts according to Defense Manpower Data Center, which works under the Office of the Secretary of Defense: Over 26 percent of military personnel indicate they are not religious, but add to that over 7,000 say they are Atheists, over 3,500 follow Islam, over 5,300 are Buddhists, over 1,300 are Agnostic, 771 are Hindu, 522 Unitarian Universalists, and almost 2,500 belong to WICCA (Witchcraft).
One of my friends, who is a Lake Elsinore resident, a Muslim, and a five-year veteran of the Navy, is petrified to speak about being Muslim in his own city. A plan like the veterans monument subtly tells people like my friend and me that we are not welcome in the city.
I also spent three years in the Army, where I met President Clinton after a successful deployment as a U.N. Peacekeeper in the Former Yugoslavia. I later joined the National Guard for an additional five years when I finished my contract in the Army.
Nobody is saying religions cannot exist. I would fight for the right for any religion to exist even though I’m an Atheist. I firmly believe in the right of religious freedom in America, but I also don’t understand why, if the city truly wants to honor veterans, there is a need to add any religious emblem?
Am I going to sue the city because I disagree? No. But I ask the City Council, do you want to perpetuate the feeling that my Muslim friend and I have about the City of Lake Elsinore? I served this country with pride, and I’d do it again, but that monument doesn’t represent me. I never kneeled in front of a cross and prayed after a mission.