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Splintered decision in cross case relies on memorial’s history

Hollman: Decision does not support new Christian-only monuments

Jun 20, 2019

Media contact: Cherilyn Crowe / [email protected] / Cell: 202.670.5877

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision in The American Legion v. American Humanist Association. The Court reversed the lower court decision and ruled that this free-standing, 40-foot cross on government property can remain in place.

The following statement is from Holly Hollman, general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC):

“The Court’s decision holding that the Bladensburg cross is constitutional relies heavily on the particular history of that memorial. The splintered decision shows how difficult it is to reconcile the government’s promise of religious liberty for all while upholding a massive Latin cross on government land.

BJC is pleased that the Court did not accept the extreme arguments put forth by the government and its allies. The Court did not abandon the First Amendment’s promise of neutrality among faiths. It also specifically acknowledged the cross as a Christian symbol, not a universal symbol of sacrifice.

Important for our pluralistic society, the decision does not support the constitutionality of Christian-only monuments sponsored by government today.”

BJC filed a friend-of-the-court brief that said the display of the preeminent symbol of Christianity on government land in Bladensburg, Maryland, is unconstitutional. The brief was written by church-state scholar Douglas Laycock and joined by the American Jewish Committee, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, General Synod of the United Church of Christ, and the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

For resources on this case, including a podcast discussion of the oral arguments, visit BJConline.org/CrossCase.

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Based in Washington, D.C., BJC (the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty) is an 83-year-old religiously based organization working to defend religious freedom for all people and protect the institutional separation of church and state in the historic Baptist tradition.