Supreme Court Says 40-Foot-Tall Cross on Public Land in Maryland Can Stay

June 21, 2019 by Dan McCue
The World War I memorial cross at 4500 Annapolis Road in Bladensburg, Md. The Bladensburg Peace Cross, as the local landmark is known, was dedicated in 1925 as a memorial to Prince George County's World War I dead. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun/TNS)

WASHINGTON – A large, cross-shaped memorial to the dead of World War I that has stood in the grassy median of a local roadway for nearly a century, can stay right where it is, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Writing for the majority in the 7-2 ruling, Justice Samuel Alito Jr. said that while “the cross is undoubtedly a Christian symbol … that fact should not blind us to everything else that the Bladensburg Cross has come to represent.”

“For some, that monument is a symbolic resting place for ancestors who never returned home,” Alito continued. “For others, it is a place for the community to gather and honor all veterans and their sacrifices to our nation. For others still, it is a historical landmark.

“For many of these people, 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. For all these reasons, the Cross does not offend the Constitution,” the justice wrote.

The ruling is significant because of what it says about the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which prohibits the government from favoring one religion over others. In this case, the majority appears to be saying that the establishment clause is not necessarily a bright line rule.

The American Legion and others who fought to keep the cross in Bladensburg, a suburb of Washington, D.C., argued that if the high court ordered it removed, the ruling would have a domino effect, causing scores of war memorials to be taken down across the country.

Their opponents, which included three area residents and the District of Columbia-based American Humanist Association, argued the cross should be moved to private property or modified into a nonreligious monument such as a slab or obelisk.

Two of the court’s liberal justices, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan joined their conservative colleagues in ruling for the cross. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.

In her dissent, 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 case is American Legion et al. v. American Humanist Assn., et at. No. 17–1717.

Supreme Court

Trump Says It Will be 'Hard to Get' His Election Claims to Supreme Court
2020 Elections
Trump Says It Will be 'Hard to Get' His Election Claims to Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, even while repeating his groundless claim that "we won the race," appeared Sunday to acknowledge dwindling chances of success in his legal battle to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election won by President-elect Joe Biden. "It's hard to get into the Supreme Court," he said... Read More

High Court Blocks NY Coronavirus Limits on Houses of Worship
Supreme Court
High Court Blocks NY Coronavirus Limits on Houses of Worship

WASHINGTON (AP) — As coronavirus cases surge again nationwide the Supreme Court late Wednesday barred New York from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas designated as hard hit by the virus. The justices split 5-4 with new Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the... Read More

Alito: COVID Crisis Has Been a ‘Constitutional Stress Test’
Supreme Court
Alito: COVID Crisis Has Been a ‘Constitutional Stress Test’
November 13, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., told the Federalist Society in a keynote address Thursday night the coronavirus pandemic has led to "previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty." "I am not diminishing the severity of the virus's threat to public health," Alito continued in a... Read More

Supreme Court Appears Likely to Preserve Most of Affordable Care Act
Supreme Court
Supreme Court Appears Likely to Preserve Most of Affordable Care Act
November 10, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON -- So much for the new conservative majority of the Supreme Court dismantling the Affordable Care Act. On Tuesday, during oral arguments for California v. Texas, one of this term's most anticipated cases, two members of that majority, suggested they're not inclined to strike down... Read More

All About the New ACA Challenge Before the Supreme Court
Supreme Court
All About the New ACA Challenge Before the Supreme Court
November 10, 2020
by Kate Michael

WASHINGTON — This morning, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a legal challenge seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act.  This third major challenge to the ACA heard by the Supreme Court, Texas v. California seeks to decide whether Congress, by eliminating the penalty... Read More

Political Gaze Shifts to the Supreme Court as Justices Hear Pivotal Health Care Case
Supreme Court
Political Gaze Shifts to the Supreme Court as Justices Hear Pivotal Health Care Case

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court with new Justice Amy Coney Barrett hears oral argument Tuesday in a case that threatens to wipe out the 2010 health care law, likely the term's most consequential case, under a political spotlight that rarely shines brighter on justices who would rather stay out of it.... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top