Sunday, February 24, 2019

Does a World War I Memorial Violate the Establishment Clause?

In the American Legion v. American Humanist Association, the Supreme Court will weigh in on whether a state’s maintenance of a 93-year-old World War I memorial that includes a 40-foot cross is an “establishment of religion” in violation of the First Amendment.

While the Constitution’s command that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” is straightforward, the Supreme Court’s establishment clause jurisprudence is anything but clear.

To determine whether a government action runs afoul of the First Amendment, the Supreme Court has developed a number of tests, looking for “excessive entanglement” of government with religion, an endorsement or disparagement of a particular faith tradition, or government coercion, while also weighing the history and context of the challenged religious practice or display.

The Supreme Court has applied these tests inconsistently, giving the lower courts little guidance about how and when to apply the various tests. All this leads to unpredictable results.

In a dissent from the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Rowan County v. Lund last term, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote: “[t]his court’s establishment clause jurisprudence is in disarray.”

The fact that the Supreme Court took up the American Legion case might be a signal that a majority of the justices agree with Thomas.

In the case at hand, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit held that the war memorial, the Peace Cross in Bladensburg, Maryland, violates the establishment clause, concluding that the size and prominence of the cross convey government endorsement of Christianity and that the state’s maintenance of the cross is an excessive entanglement with religion.

The veterans group contends that the Supreme Court should clarify what the appropriate test is for judging establishment clause claims, urging the justices to adopt the coercion test (asking whether the government used its power to force particular religious beliefs or practices on its citizens, or to require financial support for a particular religion) and to jettison the others.



Anonymous said...

I am an Atheist and I strongly support the cross staying where it is; it honors brave young men who fought for freedom.

Bird of Paradise said...

The American Humanists Association just another bunch of liberal idiots trying to force their idiotic ideas on us all their as bad as the ACLU

ScienceABC123 said...

Trying to force the absence of religion on everyone technically is a religion in itself.

Bill R. said...

That was not the intent of the Founders when they wrote the establishment clause. Each of the 13 colonies had their own state religion. It was the intent of the Founders that there was no official religion like the Church of England, not to totally eliminate religion from the country.

Spurwing Plover the fighting shorebird said...

The American Humanists Association has no right to force its narrow minded views upon them and the ACLU and SPLC and the rest of the athiests/Infedel liberals

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the question really turns on whether the state can support a historical monument - that also happens to be religious.
If the monument would otherwise qualify for historical protection, and presumably maintenance from the public purse, the State SHOULD be viewpoint neutral.
It should be just as free to maintain a cathedral as it would a statue of Washington.
To adopt a content biased viewpoint would discriminate AGAINST religion - which would be equally impermissible.