Blurred Line Between Church and State?

Post by Randall Ryder

The Supreme Court may be signaling future blurring of the line between church and state based on a recent decision. The Court recently refused, by a 5-4 vote, to order the removal of a war memorial cross. The cross was congressionally endorsed and sits on land owned by the US government.

The case started many years ago, when an individual objected to the placement of the cross on US land. Federal courts sided with the individual and ordered the cross be removed. Congress then stepped in, transferring the land from public hands to private ownership. The courts, however, felt that solution was unacceptable way of addressing the Constitutional issue. In their decision, the Court told the federal judge to reexamine the removal order.

Both Muslim and Jewish veteran groups objected to the cross because it is viewed as a religious symbol that excludes their religious beliefs. The Jewish War Veterans called it "not a symbol of any other religion."

The Court partially agreed, a dissenting Justice Stevens said the cross was "dramatically inadequate and [an] inappropriate tribute." Justice Kennedy, however, sided with the majority and had a different take. Kennedy felt it was wrong to view the cross as just a religious symbol, and nothing more. Going further, he noted "The Constitution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion’s role in society. . . ."

The decision could set the precedent for future cases that continue to signal a government more accepting of religion. There are at least two other cases in the federal courts dealing with crosses on US government property. While few would argue a memorial within itself is inappropriate, some religious groups, as noted above, feel that crosses are exclusive to the Christian religion and do not adequately represent other groups.

Of course, the introduction of a new justice could change the makeup of the Court, at least pertaining to their views on church and state. What do you think? Should the government be allowed to crosses on federal land?

Supreme Court Ruling Saves Cross Built On Mojave Land | The Huffington Post

 

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