First Amendment News

The Supreme Court has issued a 7-2 ruling that the Bladensburg Cross war memorial does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The 40-foot high cross is on a public right-of-way in a Maryland suburb of Washington.

In the majority opinion Justice Alito wrote—

The Bladensburg Cross carries special significance in commemorating World War I. Due in large part to the image of the simple wooden crosses that originally marked the graves of American soldiers killed in the war, the cross became a symbol of their sacrifice, and the design of the Bladensburg Cross must be understood in light of that background.

That the cross originated as a Christian symbol and retains that meaning in many contexts does not change the fact that the symbol took on an added secular meaning when used in World War I memorials. Not only did the Bladensburg Cross begin with this meaning, but with the passage of time, it has acquired historical importance. It reminds the people of Bladensburg and surrounding areas of the deeds of their predecessors and of the sacrifices they made in a war fought in the name of democracy.

Justice Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion which was joined by Justice Sotomayor.

The case is American Legion v. American Humanist Assn. The opinion can be read here.

UPDATE—Bad link fixed.

2 thoughts on “First Amendment News


  1. If Ginsburg and Sotomayor didn’t object to this ruling, I’d worry about some awful precedent sneaking through.

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