Written by Don Byrd

A brief filed with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this by advocates including the Baptist Joint Committee describes the challenge to the constitutionality of a large cross on public land in Pensacola, Florida, as “an easy one.” And while a 3-judge panel agreed, ruling last week that precedent demanded they affirm an order to remove the cross, they criticized in strong terms the cases requiring that outcome, which they clearly disagreed with.

The opinion indicates the judges, if “writing on a clean slate,” would likely have ruled in favor of the city’s arguments that the plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the cross and that it does not violate the Establishment Clause. But constrained by 11th Circuit precedent, the panel concluded the law calls for the cross’s removal, as the brief argued. 

That didn’t keep the judges in concurring opinions from ridiculing the state of the law in this area. One judge referred to it as a “wreck,” and called on the entire 11th Circuit to take up the case and reverse circuit precedent he argues is incompatible with Supreme Court jurisprudence.  Stay tuned  

Meanwhile, for more on why the Pensacola Cross violates the First Amendment, see the brief the BJC signed on to.