High Court Rules Cross Does Not Violate Church/State Separation
In Narrow Ruling of 5-4, Supreme Court says cross sitting on national parkland is no violation of Separation of Church and State
In a narrow ruling today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a cross erected on national parkland as a war memorial in the Mojave desert does not violate constitutional norms of separation of church and state.
The 5-4 conservative majority said Congress acted properly when it attempted to transfer land around the Mojave Memorial Cross to veterans groups, in an effort to eliminate any Establishment Clause violation.
A federal appeals process blocked this, so that the national memorial declaration of the land is void.
"It is reasonable to interpret the congressional designation as giving recognition to the historical meaning that the cross had attained," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. "The Constitution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion's role in society."
Contentious nature of church-and-state cases
Despite the ruling, there was strong disagreement about how future similar disputes should be settled.
The main issue is whether the display violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."
The cross was first erected in 1934 by a local Veterans of Foreign Wars unit.
The land now is part of the Mojave National Preserve, a unit of the National Park Service.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State "Disappointed" with Ruling
In a press release today, the group AU (Americans United for separation of church and state) has said they found the ruling "disappointing".
“I’m very disappointed,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans Unitedexecutive director. “The court majority was clearly determined to find any bogus reason to keep this religious symbol in a public park.”
Added Lynn, “It’s alarming that the high court continues to undermine theseparation of church and state. Nothing good can come from this trend.”
Lynn said the ruling in Salazar v. Buono will likely encourage further assaults on the church-state wall.
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huntsville, Alabama, United States