11:11, June 20 63 0 abajournal.com

2019-06-20 11:11:05
Supreme Court rules peace cross memorial on government land does not violate establishment clause

Peace Cross

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Developing: The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled a Peace Cross memorial on government land does not violate the establishment clause.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote the majority opinion, according to early coverage by SCOTUSblog. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented in an opinion joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

The Peace Cross is a 40-foot monument built in 1925 in Bladensburg, Maryland, to honor soldiers who died during World War I. The American Legion helped pay for the monument, but a state commission took over ownership in 1961 and pays for its maintenance.

“The cross is undoubtedly a Christian symbol,” Alito wrote, “but that fact should not blind us to everything else that the Bladensburg Cross has come to represent. For some, that monument is a symbolic resting place for ancestors who never returned home. For others, it is a place for the community to gather and honor all veterans and their sacrifices for our nation. For others still, it is a historical landmark. For many of these people, destroying or defacing the cross that has stood undisturbed for nearly a century would not be neutral and would not further the ideals of respect and tolerance embodied in the First Amendment.

Alito was joined in most parts of his opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan and Brett M. Kavanaugh. Kagan did not join a section of Alito’s opinion criticizing the so-called Lemon test used to determine constitutional violations in such cases, SCOTUSblog points out.

Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas concurred in the judgment.