O’Reilly schooled about Red Cross

As happens in emotionally charged debates, one side or the other makes knee-jerk reactions of a slippery slope. They claim that if X is done then all instances of X would have to be done the same way. A majority of the time such claims are wrong.

The Media Matters website pointed out that on the July 25th edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly falsely claimed that the Red Cross “historically … adopted” its emblem “because of the Christian philosophy of giving alms and giving assistance to people in need.”

He was interviewing the lawyer representing Philip Paulson, a man from San Diego, who has won 17 years of court cases to have the Latin cross on Mt. Soledad removed from the public park there. O’Reilly made the knee-jerk reaction that if the Mt. Soledad cross is removed then the American Red Cross would have to change its symbol of a red cross on a white field since it was adopted because of its ties to Christianity.

As Media Matters points out:

In fact, according to the American Red Cross website, it was “[i]n honor of the Swiss … [that] the symbol of a red cross on a white background (the reverse of the Swiss flag) was identified as a protective emblem in conflict areas.”

In addition to stating that its symbol was chosen as the reverse of the Swiss flag, the American Red Cross website adds that “[t]he Red Cross idea was born in 1859, when Henry Dunant, a young Swiss man, came upon the scene of a bloody battle in Solferino, Italy,” and that the “emblem was adopted at this first International Conference as a symbol of neutrality” at the first-ever Geneva Convention at Geneva, Switzerland, in 1864.

O’Reilly falsely claimed Red Cross symbol was “adopted” because of “Christian philosophy”

The Mt. Soledad cross is referred to as a Latin Cross, it has equal sized arms but a longer foot.

The cross used on the Swiss flag and at the American Red Cross shows all the pieces to be equal in size so that the symbol is squarish.

The Latin Cross has been a known Christian symbol since the 1200’s. The International Committee of the Red Cross does make allowances for countries where some might mistake the Red Cross as something wholly Christian. The Committee allows those countries to use a different symbol such as the Red Crescent in Islamic countries and the new Red Crystal where a crescent or cross wouldn’t be used but in all cases the symbol used is noting protection and neutrality.

Instead of saying that the Mt. Soledad cross should be kept or else all public images of the cross must be removed, the real point is that O’Reilly proved that the Mt. Soledad is religious in nature and is a symbol of Christianity. He has made the case as to why that cross should be removed from a public park.


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  1. August 2, 2006

    What evidence do you have that O’Reilly is a “Religious” Conservative? Maybe I would be better served to ask your definition of “Religious” and “Conservative.” Just to focus on “religious” for a moment, the word has a Latin Root of ‘religio’ from ‘re’ meaning “return to” or “again” and ‘ligio’ or ‘ligare’ meaning “to bind” or “bondage.” Thus religion in its most basic sense means “to bind again” or “to return to bondage.” Now if you are an atheist (as has been reported about you) you could likely be categorized as a religious liberal or a religious atheist or a religious secular humanist, because you keep binding your self again to a specific belief system of whatever title you place on it.
    Now if you are an atheist, you don’t believe in God, so the Word “religion” has nothing to do with God (or “god” in your case). Now I could surmise that you are referring to O’Reilly’s belief in God and that you might also infer that O’Reilly would believe in a Christian God as most secular people, when they use the term “Religious Conservative” are referring to Bible-believing Christians. I have seen no evidence of O’Reilly fitting in to that category (although I must admit I don’t have much history with him). I am a political and social Conservative and a follower of Jesus Christ. Maybe you would call me a “Religious Conservative” but, by your useage of the term in regard to O’Reilly, I don’t fit in his “camp.”
    Well you keep spouting your dogma, and I will keep spouting mine. I would be glad to spout it back and forth if you are willing. I think it is a wonderful opportunity for dialogue.
    Thanks for your time!

  2. August 3, 2006

    I didn’t refer to O’Reilly as a religious conservative. I don’t know if he is or not but he has defended particular ideas and views held by religious conservatives – like the “war” on Christmas and the Mt. Soledad cross. The sentence that is causing the confusion is where I relate his view of the “cross” with similar views of religious conservatives – a cross is a cross and always refers to Christianity. Re-reading that passage I think I will edit it so my thoughts are more clear.

    As for your comments about “religion”:

    I have been careful in this blog to describe both political and religious conservatives because they are not the same thing even if their views might overlap from time to time.

    I am an atheist and I am not religious. In fact “religion” is not relevant to living my life. I know it can be hard for someone who has religion play a large part of one’s life to comprehend someone who doesn’t find religion relevant in their life, but we exist so you need to understand us.

    The only “dogma” I spout is the need to keep government neutral in regards to religion.

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