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From mkelley@U.Arizona.EDU Wed Apr 17 07:24:06 PDT 1996
Article: 31560 of alt.revisionism
From: Marty Kelley 
Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Repost: Tom Moran & the Menorah--a FAQ
Date: Tue, 16 Apr 1996 12:08:44 -0700
Organization: The University of Arizona
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Dear Readers:  The strange case of Tom Moran and the Secular Menorahs is
among the weirder running arguments I have found myself engaged in as a
participant in alt.revisionism.  This FAQ attempts to lay out the basics of
the discussion and to trace the history of Mr. Moran's refusal to admit
that he is incorrect about a fairly simple factual matter.  I have no
illusions that this FAQ will convince Mr. Moran that he is incorrect, but
at least it gathers together, in a single document, various threads that
have been running through alt.revisionism since October 1995.  I believe
that this discussion provides a useful example of the lies, distortions,
half-truths, and unfounded claims that Holocaust deniers in general, and
Mr. Moran in particular, routinely engage in.  
I will update this FAQ periodically to reflect any changes in Mr. Moran's
claims or positions.
I first came across Mr. Moran's assertion in the middle of a thread that
Mr. Moran posted under the title "BIG QUESTION--answered?," posted in early
October, 1995. (I'm quoting from Mr. Moran's followup post of October 
In that initial post (article <45c58v$>), Mr. Moran
          Also a number of years ago a Jewish assault on displaying
     Christian symbols in public places started in Beverly Hills over a
     cross erected in one of their parks at Christmas time.  Eventually
     this activity spread out over the U.S. . . Eventually the Jews got a
     U.S. court to deem the menorah a "secular" symbol so as to make their
     symbol all right for display while the cross, Nativity Scenes and such
     be banned.
When Danny Mittleman challenged Mr. Moran for evidence regarding the
Beverly Hills case (particularly the claim that challenges to the public
display of religious symbols "began" with that case), Mr. Moran replied,
"Check L.A.Times archives for first incident.  Then try to show there
were others before it.  All articles involved Jews, not aetheists" (sic).
In response to Mr. Mittleman's request for documentation of the assertion
that a court had declared the menorah secular, Mr. Moran said, "You will
have to look it up your self. I think it was U.S. Court in Ohio. Anyway I
know the case is circulated in the Jewish community."
This is where I jumped into the discussion. I got out my _Oxford Companion
to the Supreme Court_ (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), and looked
up the cases on publicly-funded displays of religious symbols.  Not
surprisingly, I did not find any case that declared the menorah to be a
secular symbol. I did, however, find two cases that directly contradicted
Mr. Moran's contention.
On Wed, 11 Oct 1995, I posted summaries of the relevant Supreme Court cases
under the title "Creches & menorahs (was Re: BIG QUESTION - 
     The key case is _Lynch v. Donelly_ (1984), decided by a 5-4 
     The case involved a creche (nativity scene) that was part of a
     Christmas display in Pawtucket, R.I., which also included other
     seasonal symbols, such as sleighs, reindeer, christmas trees, Santa,
     etc.  The plaintiffs, residents of Pawtucket, argued that the public
     funding of the creche violated the Establishment Clause of the 1st
     amendment. When considered "within the context of the city's
     celebration of a national public holiday, the majority concluded that
     the creche served the legitimate secular purpose of symbolically
     depicting the historical origins of the Christmas holiday" (p. 
     Five years later, in _Allegheny County v. ACLU Greater Pittsburgh
     Chapter_ (1989), the Court ruled that the publicly-funded display of a
     creche *alone* did indeed violate the Establishment Clause, if the
     symbols in the display were primarily religious in nature.  If mixed
     with other, secular symbols of the holiday season, as in _Lynch_, a
     creche would be acceptable.  
     Justice Harry Blackmun also argued that a menorah "could occupy a
     similar setting, so long as it was in a context--surrounded by secular
     symbols--that emphasized the diversity of the holiday" (28).
In both of these cases, "overall context" was the key factor determining
the legality of a local government's display of religious symbols.  Both
cases explicitly treated the nativity scene and the menorah as _religious_
symbols--indeed, had they not been religious symbols, the question of
whether their display violated the establishment clause would never have
been raised.  Neither case declared the menorah or the creche "secular."
Rather, both cases held that those two religious symbols could be legally
included in publicly-funded holiday displays, as long as they were
accompanied by NON-religious holiday symbols as well.
In response to my request that he provide sources for his assertion that
"the Jews got a U.S. court to deem the menorah a secular symbol," Mr. Moran
wrote, on 11 Oct 1995, "Marty, I read about the case in a couple of
sources, one I believe to have been the Spotlight and the other New
American View.  It could have been in a major news story."  He also said:
     I know its circulated in the Jewish community because a Jewish girl
     told me about it.  We were having a nice discussion on history when
     she interjected something out of the blue negative on Catholicism.  I
     came back with a retort.  She came back with the court case.  By the
     time we got done with the topic I said "Just because the U.S. Court
     has been induced to say the menorah is secular doesn't mean it is." 
     She said "No".  This after I leveled all the stuff that shows the
     assertion that the menorah is "secular" to be utterly wacky.  
I replied:
     Have you considered the possibility that the young woman you were
     talking to had also heard something about the _Lynch_ and _Allegheny_
     decisions, and that her understanding of them was as inaccurate as
     yours obviously is? 
Mr. Moran never replied to that question; I would also add that he has not,
in any subsequent post, repeated his statement that he may have read about
the case in Willis Carto's _Spotlight_.  That, and his oblique mention of
the L.A. Times, is the closest Mr. Moran has ever come to actually stating
a published source for his assertion about a court declaring the menorah to
be secular.
On October 14, Mr. Moran repeated his contention that "The case I,m talking
about involves a declaration that the menorah is a secular symbol and not
subject to any clause on church and state in the U.S. Comstitution" (sic).
Because Mr. Moran pointed out, quite correctly, that my _Oxford Guide_
would not cover cases after 1992, I checked out the _Newsbank_ database,
and found an article on the 1995 Supreme Court decision in the case of
_Capitol Square Review v. Pinette_.  I posted the following summary of the
case on Tue, 17 Oct 1995:
     The Court ruled, 7-2, to allow the KKK the right to display a cross in
     a public square next to the state Capitol building.  The Klan had
     argued that since the state had allowed a Christmas tree and a menorah
     to be displayed there (both put up by private groups), then they
     should be allowed to erect a cross. State officials objected to the
     Klan's cross, claiming that "the Christmas tree and menorah were
     allowed because they had a cultural significance beyond religion,
     while the cross conveyed a purely sectarian message advancing
     Christianity" (all quotes from _Washington Post_ report; full citation
     below).  The Klan sued, and all lower courts held that the Klan (a
     private group) had a right to display a cross in a public place; the
     Supreme Court upheld the lower courts' decisions.
     So, to make it perfectly clear, Mr. Moran: not only did the Court not
     declare the menorah a secular symbol, it declared that an explicitly
     religious symbol such as the cross or menorah CAN be displayed by a
     private group on public property (note that this is slightly different
     from the _Allegheny_ and _Lynch_ decisions, which dealt with_publicly_
     funded displays). 
     In the _Capitol Square Review_ decision, the Supreme Court upheld the
     6th U.S. District Court of Appeals' decision that "a private group's
     unattended display of a religious symbol in a public forum does not
     violate the Establishment Clause."
     source: (Laurie Goodstein and Joan Biskupic. "In Two Rulings, High
     Court Refines Relationship Between Church, State." _Washington Post_.
     June 30, 1995. p. A1 [_CD Newsbank_ reprint]).
Mr. Moran did not reply to the first post about the _Capitol Square_
decision, so a few days later, on 26 Oct 1995, I re-posted this
information, along with shortened summaries of the two other cases, under
the thread title "Big Question Unanswered by Mr. Moran."
He did not reply.  I re-posted the article on Nov. 4, and Mr. Moran replied
almost immediately (Nov 6).
IIIA: Lynch v. Donelly:  I must admit that, in posting my shortened summary
of _Lynch v. Donelly_, I inadvertantly employed a phrasing that most
readers should not have had a problem with, but which Mr. Moran misread
particularly badly. I wrote:
     _Lynch v. Donnelly_ (1984), which held that a publicly-funded display
     of a creche (nativity scene) on public property was constitutional, so
     long as the creche was displayed with other, secular symbols of the
     holiday season.
And Mr. Moran replied, "Anyone who asserts the the (sic) nativity scene is
secular, as indicated above is committing lies."
In a followup post (Nov. 6), I explained Mr. Moran's misreading to him:
     Well, Mr. Moran, now I have an answer ready if my students ever ask me
     what difference a comma makes!  You have utterly misread my summary
     of_Lynch v. Donnelly_. The whole case turned around the fact that
     public funds were being used to finance a _religious_ display, i.e., a
     creche. The Court held that because the creche (a religious seasonal
     symbol) was part of a larger display that included other seasonal
     symbols (Santas, reindeer, snowflakes, etc), which were secular, the
     display AS A WHOLE did not violate the Establishment clause.  In other
     words, it was the combination of both religious AND secular seasonal
     symbols that made the display constitutionally. It did NOT mean that
     the creche was secular.
     Please go find a good grammar handbook to find out what the difference
     is between "the creche was displayed with other, secular symbols..." 
     and "the creche was displayed with other secular symbols..."  I wrote
     the first phrase; you seem to think I wrote the second.
Mr. Moran then sent me e-mail, on Nov. 7, in which he made two significant
errors. He wrote:
     The citations from the cases you presented include "...the creche
     was displayed with other, secular symbols ..." - "other" meaning 
     the creche is secular in that sentence.
In a Nov. 9 post to alt.revisionism, I pointed out that I had not posted
"citations from the cases"--I had written a summary, in my own words, of
the _Lynch_ decision.  The comma usage that he perceived as ambiguous was
mine, not the Court's. I also explained, a second time, that
     With the comma, the word "other" places "secular symbols" in _contrast
     to_ the creche, which the Court recognized was a religious symbol. 
     ONLY without the comma would "other" imply that the creche was "one of
     several secular symbols."  I thought my first reply to Mr. Moran's
     misreading had cleared that up, but apparently he missed the point. 
     His interpretation would only be correct if I'd written "the creche
     was displayed with other secular symbols"--which I did not.
IIIB: _Allegheny County v. ACLU_    Mr. Moran also interpreted my summary
of _Allegheny County v. ACLU Greater Pittsburgh Chapter_ (1989) to mean
what he wanted, not what the Court actually held.  This time, his
misreading can only be attributed to willful misunderstanding, not to any
ambiguity in what I wrote.  In my Nov. 4 post, I said that in the
_Allegheny County_ decision, the Court
     held that the publicly-funded display of a creche *alone* would
     violate the Establishment Clause, if the symbols in the display were
     primarily religious in nature.  As part of this decision, Justice
     Harry Blackmun also argued that a menorah "could occupy a similar
     setting, so long as it was in a context--surrounded by secular
     symbols--that emphasized the diversity of the holiday" (_Oxford
     Companion to the Supreme Court_ p. 28).
Mr. Moran replied (Nov. 6), "Right here it is implied the menorah is a
secular symbol, and anyone who says different is a liar."
In my Nov. 6 response, I once again tried to set Mr. Moran straight:
     MK: Actually, right here it specifically states that both the
     creche and the menorah are religious symbols, and anyone who says
     otherwise is a very poor reader.  In the _Allegheny_ decision,
     "The Court refused to extend _Lynch_ to approve a seasonal diplay
     that focused predominantly on religious symbols" (_Oxford
     Companion_, p. 27). Blackmun's comment about the menorah clearly
     states that its publicly-funded display would *only*  be
     constitutional if it were surrounded by secular symbols.  In
     other words, Mr. Moran, the Court held that the menorah is
     subject to the same constitutional restrictions as creches
     are--it is a religious symbol whose publicly-funded display is
     only allowable if the OVERALL CONTEXT of the display includes
     secular symbols.  A publicly-funded display of a menorah *alone*
     would be illegal.
Mr. Moran did not contest this point in his e-mail of Nov. 7; I'm still 
not sure what leap of logic lead him to conclude that Justice Blackmun's 
comment implies that the menorah is secular.  
IIIC: _Capitol Square Review v. Pinette_    Instead of writing a shortened
summary in my Nov. 4, I re-posted the same description of the case that
appears in this FAQ in section II.  In his Nov. 7 e-mail, Mr. Moran
acknowledged that this case was probably the one he had in mind when he
made his initial claim back in October:
     By golly, Marty, I think you've found it. I didn't recognize it at
     first, and now that you have identified it as the case in Ohio, which
     I mentioned previously, I am sure.
     I believe you have given me an abstract from the Washington Post.  I
     am going to look into it a little deeper as to initial motivators for
     the court action.
In addition to this acknowledgement, Mr. Moran TWICE seized on one part of
my description of the case in his responses to _Capitol Square_.  In his
alt.revisionism post of Nov. 6, he wrote: "Right above it states the
Christmas tree and the menorah are `beyond religion'.  What does that
mean?"  I replied, 
     You really should read more carefully, Mr. Moran.  The 6th U.S.
     District Court and the Supreme Court both REJECTED the Ohio officials'
     claim that the Christmas tree & menorah were less sectarian than the
     cross. The Ohio attorneys were arguing, unsuccessfully, that the tree
     and menorah had both "cultural" and "religious" meanings, and that the
     multiple meanings of those two symbols did not promote particular
     religions, while the cross promoted a particular religion. Again, both
     courts REJECTED that claim.
Mr. Moran stuck with his misreading, however. In his Nov. 7 e-mail, he
     The court statement that the Christmas tree and the menorah 
     have a "...cultural significance beyond religion, while the cross 
     conveyed a purely sectarian message advancing Christianity" 
     deserves a suppoting argument. Perhaps you would like to give 
     it a shot.
In my Nov. 9 post, I pointed out that Mr. Moran had once again
misattributed a quote:
     Once again, Mr. Moran has not read very carefully: that was not the
     COURT's statement.  It was the argument made by the attorneys for the
     State of Ohio, and both courts REJECTED their reasoning, at least as
     it pertained to the display of religious symbols on public property. 
     I repeat: it was not the Supreme Court's statement; it was the
     _losing_ argument.
It's been over two months, and Mr. Moran has still not acknowledged that he
erroneously attributed to the Court itself the losing Ohio attorneys'
Mr. Moran still seems to labor under the impression that these cases
actually did declare the menorah to be secular.  On a number of occasions,
when he was asked to provide proof that a court made such a declaration, he
has referred, obliquely, to the cases I've cited here.
For instance, when I asked him in early December if he'd made any progress
on his search, he replied ("Tom Moran is..." Dec. 10): "You know the answer
to this one, Marty." In another thread ("WHERE ARE THE PHOTOS?" Dec. 10),
he also said,
     You supplied the case already, Marty, and it is being retrieved. So
     are the articles that report the Jewish assertions that the menorah is
When Mike Stein asked him again about his menorah assertion, Mr. Moran
simply said "Why don't you ask Marty Kelley?"
He has also hinted that he is just on the verge of posting proof of his
claim.  On October 14, he wrote, "Think about how your going to reply after
all your denial when the exact case comes up."
In a more recent comment <4dgcvl$>, Jan 16, 1996, Mr.
Moran offered this prediction:
     The articles that will be recovered, full with quotes that the menorah
     is secular, and not religious, will put you to the limits of double
He also offered this explanation of why it's taking him so long to post his
proof: "Recall that I said I was working on it. I find out that the cost of
transcript could be thousands of dollars."
Poor Mr. Moran!  I must say that it's rather amusing that I could find the
three cases that disprove his claims in a total of about an hour of
research, using easily-available resources (The _Oxford Guide_ is in most
libraries, as is the _CD Newsbank_ database; since this exchange with Mr.
Moran began, I have also found that U.S. Supreme Court decisions are
readily available on the Internet).  
To sum up, then: In the three Supreme Court cases I have cited, the Court
took a clear stand that religious symbols can be displayed in publicly-
owned locations under certain circumstances.  In NONE of the three cases
that I have reviewed has the Court ever declared a religious symbol to be
secular; indeed, all three cases have focused on whether the public display
of *religious* symbols violates the First Amendent's "establishment
clause."  Despite repeated requests, Mr. Moran has not, since he first made
the claim in October 1995, provided a shred of evidence to support his
claim that "the Jews got a U.S. Court to deem the menorah a secular
symbol."  It remains to be seen whether he ever will.
Finally, I would like to repeat the offer that I made to Mr. Moran in my
post of Nov. 9, 1995:
     Here's how sure of it I am: If you can show me a U.S. Supreme Court
     decision that directly declares the menorah to be a secular symbol,
     I'll make a $20 donation to Ernst Zundel's organization, or to the
     Institute for Historical Review, if you prefer.  [Rules: you name the
     case, and if I'll show it to a U. of Az. professor who teaches
     Constitutional Law. If the prof agrees that the case makes such a
     declaration, I write a check.]  Are you willing to write a $20 check
     to the Nizkor Project if you can't find any such Supreme Court case?
I'll be waiting, Mr. Moran.

Marty Kelley  (mkelley@U.Arizona.EDU)

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