Supreme Court rules Bladensburg cross can stay
by Rachel Lynn Aldrich
Posted 6/20/19, 01:11 pm
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled 7-2 that a nearly 100-year-old, 40-foot, World War I memorial cross erected in 1925 by the American Legion in Bladensburg, Md., does not violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “The cross is undoubtedly a Christian symbol, but that fact should not blind us to everything else that the Bladensburg Cross has come to represent,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion. “For many … destroying or defacing the Cross that has stood undisturbed for nearly a century would not be neutral and would not further the ideals of respect and tolerance embodied in the First Amendment.” Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.
The American Humanist Association sued the American Legion, which maintains the memorial, and the Maryland–National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which now owns the cross and the land it sits on. A U.S. District Court judge in Maryland ruled in 2015 that the memorial could stay, but a three-judge panel from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared the cross a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court concluded that the cross had a secular meaning as a symbol of World War I at the time it was constructed and gained religious significance, along with other meanings, over time.
“This is a landmark victory for religious freedom,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty, which represented the American Legion and park commission during the appeals process. “The days of illegitimately weaponizing the Establishment Clause and attacking religious symbols in public are over.”
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