Supreme Court Rules Maryland WWI Memorial Cross Can Stay

22 Juin, 2019, 19:43 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Constitutionality Of Memorial Cross For WWI Military Fallen In Maryland Debated

Reprinted from Baptist Press (, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Justice Samuel Alito got it right in his majority opinion for the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday that allows a 40-foot cross memorializing World War I casualties to remain on public land in Maryland.

Residents of Prince George's County, Maryland and the American Humanist Association (AHA) argued otherwise and sued to have it removed as a result.

"The message of a monument, symbol, or practice may evolve", the high court determined.

That meant, of course, that the future of the "Lemon test" in particular and of decisions about government-religion relations very likely will depend on where the Chief Justice takes a position in follow-up cases. That point was made clear in a ruling Thursday by the United States Supreme Court.

The Peace Cross was constructed between 1919 and 1925 making it almost 100 years old.

Similarly, Justice Kavanaugh wrote: "I fully understand the deeply religious nature of the cross".

"However, this decision leaves in place the tangled confusion of past Establishment Clause opinions, which are now being used to remove religious messages, signs, and symbols from public squares around our country", continued Weber.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief with several other religious organizations asking that the cross not be dismantled.

David Cortmann, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, commended the court.

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"A government that roams the land, tearing down monuments with religious symbolism and scrubbing away any reference to the divine will strike many as aggressively hostile to religion", Justice Alito wrote.

The American Humanist Association noted that Alito's opinion left in place many other rulings favoring the separation of church and state, and foiled what it said was the other side's broader agenda. The cases have included such considerations as Ten Commandments displays on public property, school prayers and government prayers.

Maryland officials had argued that the cross, sometimes called the "Peace Cross", doesn't violate the Constitution because it has a secular objective and meaning. It is a symbolic resting place for ancestors who never returned home. It is a place for the community to gather to honor all veterans. "For others still, it is a historical landmark", he continued. The judge insisted that the memorial was secular, and a monument of historical significance.

"Our Founders would have been appalled at this attempt to make the government hostile to our religious heritage, history, and symbols", Shackelford added.

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, said the suit should have been dismissed earlier given the lack of standing of the association.

The case, however, split the normally liberal wing of the court.

Ginsburg, who a court spokeswoman said has been suffering a cold and laryngitis, sounded much better than she did on Monday, when her voice was raspy and strained. Thomas restated his view that the Constitution's clause banning establishment of religion does not apply to the states.

The 1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman case yielded a three-part test the justices have since used to consider whether symbols like the Bladensburg Cross have a secular goal.

Since the Lemon test's introduction in 1971, justices have offered a variety of tests in Establishment Clause cases.

Ginsburg wrote, "The principal symbol of Christianity around the world should not loom over public thoroughfares, suggesting official recognition of that religion's paramountcy". "The practice of displaying religious memorials, particularly religious war memorials, on public land is not coercive and is rooted in history and tradition". A full 89 years after the cross's dedication, AHA filed a lawsuit claiming that the presence of the memorial on public land and the use of public funds to erect it amounted to a government endorsement of Christianity.



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