The Supreme Court ruled that a 40-foot cross commemorating fallen World War I soldiers can continue to be displayed on public ground because it does not violate the separation of church and state. The cross, known as the Bladensburg Peace Cross, stands in an intersection in the suburbs of Washington D.C. and was erected in 1925.
Since a municipal agency has spent over $100,000 maintaining the cross since the 1980s, the American Humanist Association, which promotes secular governance, challenged its presence on public land. The ultimate vote from the Supreme Court was 7-2, with Justice Samuel Alito authoring the opinion of the court.
He wrote, “That the cross originated as a Christian symbol and retains that meaning in many contexts does not change the fact that the symbol took on an added secular meaning when used in World War I memorials. “Not only did the Bladensburg Cross begin with this meaning, but with the passage of time, it has acquired historical importance.”
Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg dissented, writing, “By maintaining the Peace Cross on a public highway, the Commission elevates Christianity over other faiths, and religion over nonreligion.”