by Jordan Hilger, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) - The case of a cross-shaped war memorial in Pensacola, Florida, will undergo review in the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals following the Supreme Court’s decision to endow with a “presumption of constitutionally” any religious monument deemed to have longstanding civic value.
On Friday the highest court overturned a December 2017 ruling in a lower court against the cross, which sits amidst Bayview Park in memory of fallen World War II soldiers, and originally came under scrutiny in 2016 from the American Humanist Association and Freedom From Religion Foundation when they claimed four Pensacola residents had complained about it and filed a lawsuit.
In the Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision in favor of Hyattsville, Maryland’s Bladensburg Cross, also a recent target of the American Humanist Association, last week, Justice Samuel Alito concluded “a government that roams the land, tearing down monuments with religious symbolism and scrubbing away any reference to the divine will strike many as aggressively hostile to religion,” and is clearly breaching the constitutional right to freedom of religion.
The decision set somewhat of a precedent, prompting legal reconsiderations of several like cases, with Luke Goodrich, senior counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty representing the city of Pensacola in the case, explaining that “the Supreme Court’s order is an encouraging sign that the Bayview Cross can stay in Pensacola just like the Peace Cross can stay in Maryland.”
“We fully expect the lower court to follow the Supreme Court’s lead,” he told the Pensacola News Journal.
The impetus behind both thwarted cross removals was legal activism from the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association, who claim religious monuments on public property constitute an abrogation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
Proponents say the existence of crosses in public space is quite different from theocratic lawmaking.