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U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up Conflict Over Cross

At the heart of today’s case is a not-so-simple legal question about whether or not a memorial cross to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice violates our First Amendment.

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BACKSTORY

  • 1925: 40-foot Latin cross memorial erected in Maryland to honor 49 WWI fallen soldiers. A group of mothers wanted to build a memorial to honor their sons KIA.
  • 1961: State gov’t acquired land where the memorial sits from the American Legion due to traffic concerns in the busy intersection.
  • 2014: American Humanist Assoc. sued on behalf of local residents.

 

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CHURCH vs. STATE

Separation of Church & State: The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the gov’t from endorsing religion AND promoting one religion over another.

To decide, the U.S. Supreme Court will look to whether the cross (1) has a secular purpose; (2) advances or endorses religion; and (3) fosters excessive entanglement w/ religion.

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“The cross, you know, is a religious symbol, it honors Christian veterans but no other war dead are honored by the cross other than Christians…. just because it’s a war memorial just doesn’t make it secular it actually just is using a religious symbol to accomplish that end.”

Rebecca Miller, Esq., representing the American Humanist Ass., who want the cross moved to private property.
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“That the principal effect of this is not to advance religion. That the principal effect … is to commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice during war.”

Ken Klukowski, Esq., one of the lawyers representing the American Legion, who want the cross to stay put where it is.
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WHY IT MATTERS

Domino Effect: The case has the potential to upend or expand upon decades-long legal precedent about religious symbols on gov’t land. Hundreds of memorials could be impacted.

Watch This: Will Pres. Trump’s Supreme Court nominees, Brett Kavanaugh & Neil Gorsuch impact the court’s decision?

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Separation of church and state doesn’t mean the complete absence of religion. The U.S. Supreme Court opens every session with a statement that ends: "God save the United States and this Honorable Court."

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PHOTO CREDIT: NPR