"'If you look way up to the top of the hill, you will see a cross,' said Col. Daniel J. O'Donohue, the commanding officer of 1st Marine Regiment. 'It is the heart of 1st Marines. It's a monument put up by Marines for Marines.'"
And, it's not just that this cross is visible from various areas of the base. It goes far beyond that. The cross is the destination of many mandatory training hikes, forcing countless Marines of all religions and no religion not only to visit it, but to participate in the rituals that have grown up around it and to listen, often in formation, to Christian prayers and sermons delivered by their superiors.
This completely inappropriate and unconstitutional practice has been going on since the original cross was erected in 2003, and has been well documented in articles on the official Marine Corps website, such as this one from 2005, and this one from 2006.
To fully grasp what occurs during these mandatory hikes, just watch this video from one that took place in 2008.
That's not a chaplain delivering that Christian sermon (beginning at 3:36 in the video); that was the battalion's sergeant major, Jeffrey D. Moses, and the Marine speaking right before him was the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Benjamin T. Watson. Get that? The superiors that a non-Christian or non-religious Marine should be able to go to when they have an issue with being forced to participate in religious exercises are the ones who are leading these forced religious exercises. Is it any wonder that so many service members say that they can't go to their chains of command to resolve these issues and instead come to organizations like the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF)?
Persecuted Christians Myth #2 -- The "lone atheist troublemaker"
Now, whenever one of these issues makes the news, there must be someone for the persecuted Christians to blame. Typically, they go after someone who they can turn into what I call the "lone atheist troublemaker." In the case of the Camp Pendleton cross, the "lone atheist troublemaker" of choice has been Jason Torpy, a West Point graduate, former Army captain, and Iraq veteran, who now serves as president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF). From FOX News to Jay Sekulow to The Christian Post to outspoken fundamentalist Christian military officers like Air Force Major Jonathan Dowty (a.k.a. JD the Christian Fighter Pilot), all were quick to make Jason Torpy the requisite "lone atheist troublemaker" on this one after he wrote a blog post about it on the MAAF website.