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Supreme Court of the United States
February 27, 2019, Argued ; June 20, 2019, Decided 1
No. 17-1717.; No. 18-18.
[*2074] Justice Alito announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II-B, II-C, III, and IV, and an opinion with respect to Parts II-A and II-D, in which The Chief Justice, Justice Breyer, and Justice Kavanaugh join.
Since 1925, the Bladensburg Peace Cross (Cross) has stood as a tribute to 49 area soldiers who gave their lives in the First World War. Eighty-nine years after the dedication of the Cross, respondents filed this lawsuit, claiming that they are offended by the sight of the memorial on public land and that its presence there and the expenditure of public funds to maintain it violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. To remedy this violation, they asked a federal court to order the relocation or demolition of the Cross or at least the removal of its arms. The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed that the memorial is unconstitutional and remanded for a determination of the proper remedy. We now reverse.
Although the cross [***15] has long been a preeminent Christian symbol, its use in the Bladensburg memorial has a special significance. After the First World War, the picture of row after row of plain white crosses marking the overseas graves of soldiers who had lost their lives in that horrible conflict was emblazoned on the minds of Americans at home, and the adoption of the cross as the Bladensburg memorial must be viewed in that historical context. For nearly a century, the Bladensburg Cross has expressed the community’s grief at the loss of the young men who perished, its thanks for their sacrifice, and its dedication to the ideals for which they fought. It 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.” Van Orden v. Perry, 545 U. S. 677, 704, 125 S. Ct. 2854, 162 L. Ed. 2d 607 (2005) (Breyer, J., concurring in judgment). 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 Clauses of the Constitution aim to foster a society in which people of all beliefs can live together harmoniously, and [***16] the presence of the Bladensburg Cross on the land where it has stood for so many years is fully consistent with that aim.
The cross came into widespread use as a symbol of Christianity by the fourth century, 2 and it retains that meaning today. But there are many contexts in which the symbol has also taken on a secular meaning. Indeed, there are instances in which its message is now almost entirely secular.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
139 S. Ct. 2067 *; 204 L. Ed. 2d 452 **; 2019 U.S. LEXIS 4182 ***; 27 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 970; 2019 WL 2527471
THE AMERICAN LEGION, et al., Petitioners v. AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION, et al. AND MARYLAND-NATIONAL CAPITAL PARK AND PLANNING COMMISSION, Petitioner v. AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION, et al.
Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.
Prior History: [***1] ON WRITS OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
Am. Humanist Ass'n v. Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Comm'n, 874 F.3d 195, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 20351 (4th Cir., Oct. 18, 2017)
Disposition: 874 F. 3d 195, reversed and remanded.
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