The US Supreme Court ended its February session on Wednesday with arguments concerning whether a four-story, cross-shaped war memorial maintained by the government can remain standing at a busy Maryland intersection.
The memorial under contention is a 16-ton memorial cross to veterans of the first World War that sits at the entrance to the town of Bladensburg, where it has been since 1925. In 2014 the American Humanist Association and several other humanist organizations challenged the constitutionality of the cross, arguing that is a violation the First Amendment. An amicus brief filed by the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America stated that the memorial serves as a “reminder of the promise of salvation that they do not accept and from which they are excluded.”
Defenders of the cross include the American Legion and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, as well as more than 80 members of Congress. They argued that the cross has an “an independent secular meaning,” and noted the various veteran memorials in the area to give context. In addition to arguing that the government has been permitted to “display symbols associated with religion where the display’s purpose and objective meaning are predominantly secular,” the commission implored the court to determine whether the government action in maintaining the cross is “coercive”.
The decision in this case, which is expected by June, may clarify the varying precedents in Establishment Clause case law that have been decided over the previous decades. Both sides are urging the court to deliver a clear decision that will clear up the “mix of conflicting tests and judgments.”