By Bob Allen // Baptist News Global
Below is an excerpt. Read the full article at Baptist News Global’s website.
The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty has joined 13 other religious and civil rights organizations urging a federal appeals court to uphold a lower court ruling finding a cross erected on public land in Pensacola, Fla., is unconstitutional.
In a brief filed Nov. 22, lawyers from Americans United for Separation of Church and State urged the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm a June 19 ruling ordering removal of a 34-foot cross in Pensacola’s Bayview Park — but not the judge’s criticism of the legal precedent behind it.
In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson conceded the landmark erected by a civic group in 1969 violates a 1971 Supreme Court decision that such monuments must have a secular purpose but made it clear that he disagrees with the majority in that opinion.
The friend-of-the-court brief joined by the Baptist Joint Committee says while the judge came to the right conclusion, his view of history is wrong.
“In actuality, the architects of the First Amendment effected a separation of government and religion as the means to ensure enduring religious freedom,” says the brief co-authored by Richard B. Katskee, legal director of Americans United, and Legal Fellow Andrew L. Nellis.
The brief says religious liberty advocates such as the 17th-century Baptist Roger Williams and the persecution of Baptists in Virginia and other colonies helped convince patriots such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Benjamin Franklin that the best thing government can do for religion is to leave it alone.
“From the beginning, this nation’s conception of religious liberty included, at a minimum, the equal treatment of all religious faiths without discrimination or preference,” the brief says.