The Supreme Court entertained oral arguments February 27, 2019 in the case of American Legion v. American Humanist Association.
This is the latest in a periodic series of legal challenges to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
In this iteration, the specific question is whether the 93-year-old Bladensburg Peace Cross at the Bladensburg, MD World War One memorial violates the First Amendment’s prohibition against government-established religion.
It’s clear to this observer that the Blandenburg Peace Cross does not violate the Establishment Clause. The structure is not an overt government promotion of Christianity at the expense of other religious faiths that all Americans can freely observe.
One could interpret the cross as honoring those WWI fallen soldiers who believed in God and Jesus Christ. But such an inference does not bar recognition of American Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists, Hindus or even atheists and agnostics who may also have given their lives.
Would opponents of the cross be equally intense if there were a Jewish Star of David or Menorah and Islamic Crescent also standing at the memorial? Or would this ameliorate only arguments from those who argue for universal pious parity?
The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has an opportunity to clarify the so-called “Lemon” standard for determining Establishment Clause violations. Lemon v. Kurtzman revolved around a Rhode Island law that approved salary increases for teachers at non-public schools because most instructors earned less that public school teachers. At issue was whether the state law—that benefited primarily Catholic parochial school instructors—violated the First Amendment’s separation of church and state mandate.
The Supreme Court ruled that Rhode Island’s law created excessive “entanglement between government and religion.”
At last week’s SCOTUS oral arguments on American Legion v. American Humanist Association, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch expressed displeasure with the Lemon standard as the prevailing test for Establishment Clause rulings.
Several observers predict the Supreme Court will decide there is no infringement of the Establishment Claus—Bladensburg Peace Cross will remain standing.
That would be the correct ruling. One based on the original intent of the Founding Fathers and a refreshing endorsement of common sense.