SCOTUS Hands Down Decision On Memorial Cross … Will It Satisfy Anyone?

Written by Wes Walker on June 21, 2019

The Legion erected a large concrete cross to remember those who fell in WWI, which has been contested by atheists for years. SCOTUS finally ruled. (Sort of.)

It has been widely agreed that there are gaping holes in the logic by which we measure the ‘religious test’ used by courts to decide whether religious imagery is permissible or not. It was hoped that this case would be the one in which SCOTUS brought forward some clarification so that we could at least know what the rules are.

No such luck.

On the bright side, the Cross gets to stay, and be repaired and maintained with government funds. The ruling was 7-2.

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.”
Source: NPR

Alito put forward a case that it was more historical and secular than it was religious in nature, and so it was ok.

In her opposition to the ruling, Ginsberg maintained that the cross WAS explicitly a Christian symbol.

“Decades ago,” Ginsburg wrote, “this Court recognized that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution demands governmental neutrality among religious faiths, and between religion and nonreligion. … Numerous times since, the Court has reaffirmed the Constitution’s commitment to neutrality. Today the Court erodes that neutrality commitment, diminishing precedent designed to preserve individual liberty and civic harmony in favor of a ‘presumption of constitutionality for longstanding monuments, symbols, and practices.'”

She adds, “The Latin cross is the foremost symbol of the Christian faith, embodying the ‘central theological claim of Christianity: that the son of God died on the cross, that he rose from the dead, and that his death and resurrection offer the possibility of eternal life.’ … Precisely because the cross symbolizes these sectarian beliefs, it is a common marker for the graves of Christian soldiers. For the same reason, using the cross as a war memorial does not transform it into a secular symbol, as the Courts of Appeals have uniformly recognized.”
Source: NPR

Imagine if original Supreme Court Justice John Jay could have hitched a ride on the Delorian, and had a chance to sit in on this hearing.

Do you think he’d be happy with this tepid decision? Or do you think he’d be ready to horsewhip them all and tell them that YES, it is a Christian symbol and NO that was no reason to withhold funding.

Here is an excerpt from one of John Jay’s letters (JAY TO JOHN MURRAY, JUN.Bedford, 12th October, 1816.):

It appears to me that the gospel not only recognizes the whole moral law, and extends and perfects our knowledge of it, but also enjoins on all mankind the observance of it. Being ordained by a legislator of infinite wisdom and rectitude, and in whom there is “no variableness,” it must be free from imperfection, and therefore never has, nor ever will require amendment or alteration. Hence I conclude that the moral law is exactly the same now that it was before the flood.

Does anyone really think HE would have argued that the reason it’s OK to maintain a cross-shaped memorial to remember our war dead is because it isn’t really ‘that’ Christian?

Or would he tell us we’ve all gone off the rails?

And if John Jay wouldn’t qualify as a ‘strict Constructionist’ who, pray tell, ever COULD?

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