The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled 7–2 in favor of a nearly 100-year-old World War I memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland, known as the “Peace Cross,” allowing it to remain standing. The ruling has important implications for a similar lawsuit over a 78-year-old cross erected in Pensacola during World War II.
The following statement can be attributed to Grover Robinson IV, mayor of Pensacola: “The Bayview cross is a valuable part of Pensacola’s diverse history and culture. We welcome the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the Maryland Peace Cross, and we look forward to a similar ruling in our case.”
A wooden cross was first placed in Pensacola’s Bayview Park in 1941 by the Jaycees, a local community service group, as the U.S. prepared to enter World War II. The cross has been a popular gathering place for over 75 years and is one of over 170 displays in Pensacola’s parks commemorating the city’s history and culture. In 2016, an atheist organization sued the city, claiming that the cross is “offensive” and establishes a government religion.
In Kondrat’yev v. City of Pensacola, a federal appeals court ruled that the cross must come down, but two of the three judges who decided the case said the result was “wrong” and called on the Supreme Court to fix its jurisprudence. Pensacola then appealed to the Supreme Court, which put the case on hold awaiting the outcome in the Maryland Peace Cross case.
“Religious symbols aren’t like graffiti that the government has to erase as soon as someone complains,” said Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, which is representing the city. “The Supreme Court has rightly ruled that governments can recognize the important role of religion in our history and culture.”
The Supreme Court is expected to take action on Pensacola’s appeal within the next few days.
For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at [email protected] or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.