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SCOTUS Strikes Huge Blow Against Angry Atheists, Smacks Down Lower Court's Unconstitutional Ruling

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It’s a victory for the cross — and for common sense.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a controversial memorial in the suburbs of Washington does not violate the First Amendment’s clause regarding the establishment of a religion.

And along with other high court decisions in recent days, this decision offers hope that the antagonism toward religion that marked the Obama years is receding.

In the 7-2 ruling, with liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting, the Court ruled that the World War I memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland, generally known as the Peace Cross, could stay despite atheist complaints that it amounted to a government endorsement of Christianity.

The case, including a brief from the Trump administration filed in support of the cross, has been winding its way to the high court since 2014.

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In 2017, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit agreed with the plaintiffs, including the District of Columbia-based American Humanist Association — a group of atheists and agnostics — that the Peace Cross was somehow unconstitutional.

After the full 4th Circuit appeals court declined to review that ruling, the advocates for the cross — the American Legion and a Maryland planning commission — asked the high court to rule in their favor.

On Thursday, the Court did.

And supporters were celebrating.

In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito acknowledged the religious element of the cross, of course.

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But he noted that its importance was embedded in the fabric of the community through tradition, time and respect.

Its forced removal, he wrote, would do more violence to the ideas of the Constitution than simply allowing it to stand undisturbed.

“The cross is undoubtedly a Christian symbol, but that fact should not blind us to everything else that the Bladensburg Cross has come to represent,” he wrote.

“For some, that monument is a symbolic resting place for ancestors who never returned home. For others, it is a place for the community to gather and honor all veterans and their sacrifices to our Nation,” he added.

“For others still, it is a historical landmark. For many of these people, destroying or defacing the Cross that has stood undisturbed for nearly a century would not be neutral and would not further the ideals of respect and tolerance embodied in the First Amendment. For all these reasons, the Cross does not offend the Constitution.”

He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch agreed with the decision but filed separate concurrences.

Thomas went so far as to write that the Supreme Court precedent used to challenge the cross, 1971’s Lemon v. Kurtzman decision, be overturned entirely.

That might or might not happen.

Still, Thursday’s ruling gave room for broader hopes for religious rights advocates.

Last year, the Supreme Court decided for Christian Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who had been fined by the state for declining to bake a cake to celebrate a homosexual marriage.

On Monday, the high court sent a similar case from Oregon back to the lower court for reconsideration in light of its ruling in the Phillips case.

Victories like those are particularly sweet for religious groups that endured eight years of unmitigated hostility from the federal government when Barack Obama was in the White House. (Anyone who supports the Little Sisters of the Poor certainly remembers them.)

If Donald Trump had not been elected, these victories likely never would have happened.

Every American who cares about religious freedom — even Americans who don’t consider themselves conservative — should remember that when Election Day 2020 rolls around.

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Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro desk editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015.
Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015. Largely a product of Catholic schools, who discovered Ayn Rand in college, Joe is a lifelong newspaperman who learned enough about the trade to be skeptical of every word ever written. He was also lucky enough to have a job that didn't need a printing press to do it.