by Jordan Hilger, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – A 40-foot cross memorializing fallen soldiers in World War I have been spared destruction after the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that its religious dimension did not violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
Justice Samuel Alito represented the court’s 7-2 majority decision by defending the historic civic value of the cross to the surrounding community.
“[The cross] has expressed the community’s grief at the loss of the young men who perished, its thanks for their sacrifice, and its dedication to the ideals for which they fought,” he argued, hoping a “presumption of constitutionality for longstanding monuments, symbols, and practices” would be established as a precedent for future cases.
The cross became a contested symbol shortly after the private property on which it was originally erected was transferred to state hands, allowing atheist groups to claim it as an instance of the government “respect[ing] an establishment of religion,” in the words of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Kelly Shackelford, who represented The American Legion in the case against the American Humanist Association, was heartened that the Supreme Court was not taken in by the legal legerdemain, which originally succeeded when the case was brought before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of Richmond, Virginia last year.
“The days of illegitimately weaponizing the Establishment Clause and attacking religious symbols in public are over,” she said, saying the case yielded a landmark decision for religious freedom.
The Peace Cross or Bladensburg Cross of Hyattsville, Maryland was set up in 1925 in honor of 49 Prince George’s county men who fell on the battlefield in the First World War.
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