Supreme Court Rules Cross can Stay on Public Land

A World War I memorial cross sits in Bladensburg, Md., just outside Washington, D.C. The federal government asked the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the cross.
Becky Harlan/NPR

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a 40-foot World War I memorial cross can stay on public land at a Maryland intersection.

The cross “has become a prominent community landmark, and its removal or radical alteration at this date would be seen by many not as a neutral act but as the manifestation of a hostility toward religion that has no place in our Establishment Clause traditions,” the court wrote. Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion for the court.

“And contrary to respondents’ intimations, there is no evidence of discriminatory intent in the selection of the design of the memorial or the decision of a Maryland commission to maintain it. The Religion Clause of the Constitution aim to foster a society in which people of all beliefs can live together harmoniously, and the presence of the Bladensburg Cross on the land where it has stood for so many years is fully consistent with that aim.”

The decision was 7-to-2, but had multiple parts and not all of the seven agreeing on every aspect. The decision reverses a lower-court ruling that said the memorial is unconstitutional because it is on public land and maintained at taxpayer expense. The high court’s ruling is a major victory for religious groups and the American Legion, which warned that if this cross had to be moved, so too would other crosses that serve as war memorials.

Alito argued that the cross had essentially become secular. He invoked the history of World War I memorials noting the rows and rows of crosses and stars of David at cemeteries that memorialized those who died in that war and that established in people’s minds, in his view, that that was a way to honor to dead.

Continue reading here.

[Editor’s Note: This article was written and originally published at NPR. Title changed by P&P.]



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