Lessons from the Bladensburg cross case decision

Lessons from the Court’s decision

The decision is narrower than the result. The fact that the Bladensburg Peace Cross was challenged as unconstitutional and remains on public land is not the main point for religious liberty. Government efforts to sponsor religious monuments, symbols or practices should continue to be scrutinized. The 7–2 decision was splintered, meaning seven justices agreed with the result but for different reasons. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion. While Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan were in the majority, they both also wrote separately, and Kagan did not sign on to all of Alito’s opinion. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas did not join the opinion, concurring only in the judgment and each writing a separate concurrence. Gorsuch wrote to explain why he would deny plaintiffs the opportunity to challenge government-sponsored religious displays. Thomas reiterated his unique view that the Constitution allows state establishments of religion. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, dissented. The dissent rejected the notion that the meaning of the cross would change over time and that its display in this way is consistent with the government’s promise of neutrality toward religion.



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