Written by Don Byrd
The City of Pensacola, Florida is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and allow a large memorial cross to remain on public land. Earlier this month, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court ruling that the monument is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by the government and must be removed. (As I posted, however, the Appeals Court was notably reluctant to endorse the outcome and suggested the precedent they were required to follow was incorrectly decided. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court may weigh in on the question.
The City is questioning both whether the plaintiffs have standing to challenge the 34-foot cross and whether, if they do, the cross is an impermissible religious display. On the second question, the petition focuses on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Town of Greece that legislative prayers are constitutional because of the long historic practice. Since the Pensacola cross has stood on public land for many years, does it withstand scrutiny for the same reason?
The Baptist Joint Committee joined an amicus brief to the 11th Circuit arguing that the cross sends an unconstitutional message “to communicate governmental favoritism for Christianity. Not only is that message forbidden by the Establishment Clause, but it disrespects and infringes the religious freedom of Pensacola residents, Christian and nonChristian alike.”
The Supreme Court’s next term begins in October.