Update: Historic Cross on Public Property Can Stay, Supreme Court Rules


Professor Abner Greene provided his opinion to Catholic News Service on a Supreme Court decision that ruled in favor of preserving a cross-shaped World War I memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland.

In a 7-2 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of preserving a historic cross-shaped memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland saying the cross did not endorse religion.

The June 20 ruling reversed a lower court decision last year.

“Although the cross has long been a preeminent Christian symbol, its use in the Bladensburg memorial has a special significance,” said the court’s ruling in an opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito. He said the memorial, paying tribute to soldiers who died in World War I, should be seen in the same “historical context” as the white crosses marking the overseas graves of soldiers who had lost their lives in that war.

But the court ruling also left some wiggle room. Abner Greene, a professor at Fordham Law School in New York, said the court “did not adopt the more conservative position that only government coercion violates the Establishment Clause.”

He said the court specifically focused “on the history of the specific religious symbol on state property” and “did not adopt a more categorically permissive rule.”

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