U.S. Supreme Court rules for cross-shaped war memorial on public land in Maryland

A concrete cross commemorating servicemen killed in World War One, that is the subject of a religious rights case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, is seen in Bladensburg, Maryland, U.S., February 11, 2019. Picture taken on February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Lawrence Hurley

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A 40-foot-tall (12 meters) cross-shaped war memorial standing on public land in Maryland does not represent an impermissible government endorsement of religion, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a major decision testing the boundaries of the U.S. Constitution’s separation of church and state.

The justices, in a 7-2 decision, overturned a lower court ruling that had declared the so-called Peace Cross in Bladensburg unconstitutional in a legal challenge mounted by the American Humanist Association, a group that advocates for secular governance. The concrete cross was erected in 1925 as a memorial to troops killed in World War One.

The challengers had argued that the cross violated the Constitution’s so-called Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from establishing an official religion and bars governmental actions favoring one religion over another.

The American Humanist Association did not immediately comment on the ruling.

The fractured decision saw two of the court’s liberals, Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Elena Kagan, joining the five conservatives in parts of the majority. The ruling made it clear that such a monument in the shape of a Christian cross on public land was permissible but the justices seemed divided over whether other types of religious displays and symbols on government property would be allowed.

Justice Samuel Alito, a conservative, wrote for the majority that although the cross is a religious symbol, “its use in the Bladensburg memorial has special significance” because it functions as a war memorial.

“For nearly a century, the Bladensburg cross has expressed the community’s grief at the loss of the young men who perished, its thanks for their sacrifices, and its dedication to the ideals for which they fought,” he added.

To tear the cross down now could be seen as an act of hostility against religion, Alito said.

Where the justices differ is on what kinds of other displays, including ones built more recently, would violate the Constitution.

“A newer memorial, erected under different circumstances, would not necessarily be permissible under this approach,” Breyer wrote in a concurring opinion.

Liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

The Peace Cross was funded privately and built to honor 49 men from Maryland’s Prince George’s County killed in World War One. The property was in private hands when the cross was erected, but is now on land owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, a governmental agency.

The cross had the backing of Republican President Donald Trump’s administration. The American Legion holds memorial events at the site. Veterans and their relatives have said the monument has no religious meaning despite being in the shape of a cross, calling the lawsuit misguided and hurtful.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; editing by Will Dunham and Grant McCool)

American Humanist Association Drops “Under God” Pledge Lawsuit

New Jersey schools will continue to say “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance after an anti-Christian organization reportedly has dropped their lawsuit.

The American Humanist Association (AHA) sued a New Jersey school district last year to get “under God” removed from the pledge.  The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who had been helping a student who was fighting the AHA, announced Monday the American Humanist Association had been beaten.

“The American Humanist Association’s challenge turned out to be all bark and no bite,” said Diana Verm, legal counsel with the Becket Fund, in a statement shared with The Christian Post.  “The court was right that the pledge doesn’t exclude anyone, but dissenters have the right to sit it out. That’s how we’ve always dealt with disagreements in our society.”

The AHA did not expect that a high school student would stand up to fight them.  Samantha Jones and her family filed responses to the lawsuit and testified during a November motion.

“I’ve been reciting the pledge since preschool, and to me the phrase ‘one nation under God’ sums up the history and values that have made our country great,” Jones said last year.

“I think it’s empowering to know that, no matter what happens, I have some rights the government can never take away. No student should be silenced just because some people disagree with timeless American values.”

Teenager Wins Case To Keep “Under God” In Pledge

A New Jersey teenager who stood up to atheists trying to have “one nation under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance has declared victory when a state judge dismissed the case.

Samantha Jones, a senior at Highland Regional High School, said it’s her right to keep reciting the pledge in its entirety.

“I’m so grateful the court decided that kids like me shouldn’t be silenced just because some people object to timeless American values,” said Jones, in a statement released by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty who represented her.

“Ever since I was little, I’ve recited the Pledge of Allegiance because it sums up the values that make our country great. The phrase ‘under God’ protects all Americans — including atheists — because it reminds the government that it can’t take away basic human rights because it didn’t create them.”

The judge dismissed the case brought by the anti-Christian organization American Humanist Association after the testimony of Jones and her family.

“The message today is loud and clear: “God” is not a dirty word,” noted Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund in a press statement. “The Pledge of Allegiance isn’t a prayer, and reciting it doesn’t magically create an official state religion.”

Charles Darwin Day Declared In Delaware

The statement by Delaware Governor Jack Markell (D) that he is declaring February 12th “Charles Darwin Day” in the state has overjoyed atheists and anti-Christianists.

“Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is the foundation of modern biology, an essential tool in understanding the development of life on earth,” the governor said in a statement.    “The anniversary of Darwin’s birthday is a time to reflect and celebrate the importance of his scientific achievements,.  Now, Therefore, I, Jack A. Markell, Governor, do hereby declare February 12th, 2015, Charles Darwin Day.”

The day is organized around the world by the anti-Christian group American Humanist Association, which is committed to promoting anti-Christian beliefs around the world.

“The mission of International Darwin Day is to inspire people throughout the globe to reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, and hunger for truth as embodied in Charles Darwin,” states the AHA’s International Darwin Day website.

Markell took the action at the request of the Delaware Atheist Meetup.

Critics point out that Darwin’s only real accomplishments in science revolved around work on invertebrates.  Brian Thomas of the Institute for Creation Research says that the trumpeting of Darwin is just an attempt by anti-Christianists to push the idea of doing whatever you want without moral beliefs.

“The spiritual link between Darwinism and atheism follows from thinking that natural processes like death and mutations can transform worms into humans,” he stated. “Where does a Creator fit in this view? Without a Creator, man feels free to do what he wants, how he wants—all while ignoring his conscience that reminds him of the Judge he must one day face.”

Anti-Christianist Lawsuit Against School Ceremony To Be Reheard

A lawsuit brought by anti-Christianists against a South Carolina school who held an elementary graduation event inside a Christian chapel will be reheard after an appeals court remanded a district court ruling that sided with the school district.

The anti-Christian American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit in 2013 to stop the Mountain View Elementary School from holding 5th grade graduation at a local Baptist university’s chapel auditorium.

The anti-Christianists claimed that by holding the event in the building, the school was automatically endorsing Christianity.

U.S. District Judge G. Ross Anderson, Jr. denied the anti-Christianist’s request for an injunction but the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the judgment saying the lower court did not provide analysis in the ruling.

The AHA claims that an unnamed atheist student was uncomfortable when one of the other students at the event gave a prayer and other students bowed their heads to pray.  Despite the fact the school did not order the student to pray and that the student and those who bowed to pray were just exercising their religious rights, the anti-Christianists say it’s illegal for the Christians to exercise their faith in a way that a non-Christian might see them.

The school claims they were using the facility because they needed a location that could handle the growing attendance for the event.

Georgia High School Caves To Anti-Christianists

A Georgia school board has given into a group of anti-Christianists who demanded Bible verses be removed from a statue donated to the school.

The virulent anti-Christian group American Humanist Association sent a threatening letter to the school over a monument that was built in August and touched by the school’s football team on the way to the field.  The monument has two Bible verses on it.

The school board voted unanimously to give into the anti-Christian group and remove the Bible references because the school’s attorney said it was likely they would lose a court challenge.

“Kirby told board members, in part, that the monument presented some legal problems in connection with the 1971 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman. The case produced the so-called ‘Lemon test,'” reported Jim Thompson of the Athens Banner-Herald.

“Kirby went on to tell the board that the issues raised by the Madison County High School monument were too similar to other court cases on the establishment clause to believe that the county’s situation might set a new legal precedent …”

The AHA celebrated the removal of Christianity from public.

Anti-Christianists Demand Removal Of Statue With Scripture Reference

Two virulent anti-Christian groups’ latest action to try and remove Christians from society is to tell a high school in Georgia they must remove a sculpture because it contains a Bible reference.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association are threatening the Madison County School District in Danielsville, Georgia.  The school has a monument outside the field house of the high school that contains Romans 8:31 and Philippians 4:13.

The monument was paid for by private funds.

“The district violates the Constitution when it allows its schools to display religious symbols messages. Schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion,” the letter from anti-Christian FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel asserted. “The Bible verses on this monument violate this basic constitutional prohibition by creating the appearance that the school, and by extension the district, prefer religion to non-religion and Christianity to all other religions.”

The school’s superintendent says they are looking into options including removing the Bible verses or removing the monument.

New Jersey Teen Goes To Court To Protect “Under God”

A New Jersey teenager is standing up to a vehement anti-Christian organization that wants to strip “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

Samantha Jones, a senior at Highland Regional High School in Blackwood, New Jersey, has filed an official response to the anti-Christian American Humanist Association and their attempts to remove the words from the pledge.

“If anyone wants to remain silent, that is their right. But it is not their right to silence me,” said Jones.  “When I stand up, put my hand over my heart and say the Pledge of Allegiance, I am recognizing that my rights come from God, not from the government.”

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing the teen in the case.

The anti-Christianists are claiming that the existence of “under God” tells “atheist and humanist children” they are “second-class citizens.”

“the pledge is not a religious creed or a prayer. It is a statement of our nation’s political philosophy that rights come not from the state but from something higher — as our Declaration of Independence puts it, ‘Nature’s God,’” Kristina Arriaga of the Becket Fund said.

Air Force Makes “So Help Me God” Optional

The Air Force has announced that they will no longer require anyone to say “so help me God” when they enlist or renew their services to the armed forces.

The move comes in response to an atheist who said he would not say that part of the oath when re-enlisting.

“The Air Force will be updating the instructions for both enlisted and commissioned Airmen to reflect these changes in the coming weeks, but the policy change is effective now,” read an Air Force press release. “Airmen who choose to omit the words ‘So help me God’ from enlistment and officer appointment oaths may do so.”

The atheist threatened a lawsuit because he was told he could not re-enlist if he did not say the oath as written.  He had scratched out the phrase from his enlistment papers and would not say it when given the oral oath.

The anti-Christian American Humanist Organization had offered to represent the airman in suing the Air Force.

“We take any instance in which airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said. “We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our Airmen’s rights are protected.”

Anti-Christian Organization Says A Third Of Americans Want Under God Removed

An anti-Christian organization has released a poll they claim shows one-third of Americans would like to see the phrase “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance.

The American Humanist Association released a report done for their group by the Seidewitz Group backing up their claim.

Roy Speckhardt of the anti-Christian group told the Christian Post they did the poll in part because of a study from LifeWay Research last year.  Speckhardt claims that after they explained the history of the Pledge to respondents, a greater number was in favor of removing the phrase.

The poll from LifeWay Research said that 85 percent of Americans wanted to keep “under God” in the pledge while only 8 percent said it should be removed.  The poll numbers were similar to an ABC poll from 2002 where 89 percent of Americans said the phrase should be kept in the Pledge.

The anti-Christian group plans a “new campaign” against the Pledge but would not give specific details on the campaign steps.  The AHA is currently overseeing a lawsuit against the phrase in New Jersey.