On Thursday, in a 7-2 decision that had the majority writing two opinions, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a decades-old World War I monument in the shape of a cross was welcome to remain on public land in Maryland.
The justices said preserving a long-standing religious monument is very different from allowing the building of a new one. And the court concluded that the nearly 100-year-old memorial’s presence on a grassy highway median doesn’t violate the Constitution’s prohibition on the government favoring one religion over others. Seven of the court’s nine justices sided with the cross’ backers, a lineup that crossed ideological lines…
Justice Samuel Alito wrote in a majority opinion for himself and four colleagues that “when time’s passage imbues a religiously expressive monument, symbol or practice with this kind of familiarly and historical significance, removing It may no longer appear neutral.”
“A government that roams the land, tearing down monuments with religious symbolism and scrubbing away any reference to the divine will strike many as aggressively hostile to religion,” Alito wrote
Alito also wrote that the Maryland cross’ connection to World War I was important in upholding it because crosses, which marked the graves of American soldiers, became a symbol closely linked to the war.
Two of the court’s liberal justices, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, both of whom are Jewish, joined their conservative colleagues in ruling for the memorial, which on its base lists the names of 49 area residents who died in World War I.
Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas would have gone farther than the majority opinion and would have tossed the case out of court altogether.
Gorsuch wrote that people offended by religious displays shouldn’t be able to sue over them. Gorsuch wrote that in “a large and diverse country, offense can be easily found” and that the answer shouldn’t be a lawsuit.
Score one for religious liberty in the Supreme Court of the Trump era.