Supreme Court Upholds Cross on Public Land in Maryland – Decision Needs Strengthening

  • This ruling will protect those monuments already built but puts in question the future rights to build monuments.
  • Two of the nine judges were Jewish and supported this ruling. 
  • Only when the Cross is the only symbol allowed in America is there a breach of the First Amendment.

A 40 foot World War I memorial cross can continue to stand on public ground in Maryland, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday in an important 7-2 decision about the use of religious symbols in American life.

The judges said preserving a long-standing religious monument is very different from building a new one. The court said that this doesn’t violate the constitutional prohibition on the government favoring one religion over others.

The case can have an impact on the future of the right of religious people to build monuments to be placed on public highways. This ruling will protect those monuments already built but puts in question the future rights to build monuments like this including the monuments which the Chabad Lubavitch organization places which are large Candelabra in memory of the miracle of the holiday of Hanukah.

The Hanukkah menorah, also chanukiah or hanukkiah is a nine-branched candelabrum lit during the eight-day holiday of Hanukkah, as opposed to the seven-branched menorah used in the ancient Temple or as a symbol.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe who passed away in 1994 established a custom of placing Hanukah menorahs in public places in honor of the holiday.  He himself felt that this would be good not only for Jews but for all human beings to reinforce the faith in God and in the Bible which people need in their lives especially at time when their lives are threatened.  The Hanukah menorah or Candelabra gives faith in the power of God to do miracles since it represents a miracle recorded in the history of the world.

The Cross which was placed on public ground in Maryland was without the figure of Jesus on the cross. This type of symbol is accepted throughout the Christian world not revealing any acts of aggression against their master which could cause hatred.

The ruling by the Supreme Court said that a government that roams the land, tearing down monuments with religious symbolism and scrubbing away any reference to the divine will strike many as aggressively hostile to religion, Alito wrote.

The Bladensburg World War I Memorial (the Peace Cross) is a World War I memorial, located in Maryland. It is a large cross, 40 feet (12 m) in height, made of tan concrete with exposed pink granite aggregate. The base of the cross displays the words “valor,” “endurance,” “courage,” and “devotion.” It also includes a bronze tablet listing the names of 49 men from Prince George’s County’s who died during the war, along with a quote from Woodrow Wilson: “The right is more precious than peace. We shall fight for the things we have always carried nearest our hearts. To such a task we dedicate our lives.” (Photo: Ben Jacobson)

Two of the nine judges were Jewish and supported this ruling.  On the base of this monument was listed 49 martyrs who died in World War I.  Ginsberg another Jewish judge and Sonia Sotamayor also Christian both ruled that the symbol of Christianity should not loom over public thoroughfares suggesting official recognition of that religion’s paramountcy.

The question decided in this ruling is the right of a religion to build a monument in a public place to display their faith in God according to their religion.  The decision is included in an 80 page document.  The lawsuit was brought by three people that live near the Cross and the District of Columbia based American Humanist Association.

Without reading the entire document, I have a question whether the court is considering that only Christians place symbols in public thoroughfares or are they aware that also Jews place these symbols.  In a way the large candelabra in memory of the holiday of Hanukah neutralize the Large Crosses placed by Christians.  How could the court then claim one religion is paramount in any nation of the world today that has freedom of religion?

Freedom of religion gives the right of a religion to worship openly in their land.  In countries that have no freedom religion carries on in hidden places.  Judaism has a symbol of a Menorah of Hanukah and a Jewish Star.  Christians have the symbol of a Cross.  Allowing all religions to live openly and freely is defense of Freedom of Religion.  If the Pilgrims were the founders of America, this does not prevent the Jews who came as immigrants from adding to America faith through their symbolism.  Maybe Christianity or Protestantism is paramount in America but as long as there is no hatred and the road is open for other beliefs like Judaism or Islam why take away from the Pilgrims their merits to bring to the world One Nation under God with liberty and justice for all? The removing of these symbols from America is an advertisement that America the nation of Atheism is no better than China or the Communist Russia under Stalin.  Only when the Cross is the only symbol allowed in America is there a breach of the First Amendment.

The Lubavticher Rebbe (recognized for his greatness in understanding the Bible and some called him a prophet) recognized the danger of limiting freedom of religion in America. By building Jewish symbols which have stood next to Christian symbols like a Christmas tree with a Cross on the garden of the White House give the permission to spread the faith in the divine in America to Christians Jews or Islamics.

Religion is important and America is not against religion.  However, it also recognizes humanitarians for their opinions.  There is nothing wrong with being atheist or agnostic as long as they are also humanitarian in a free society.  A humanitarian will consider the importance of religion even if he doesn’t himself believe. The Cross is no threat as long as other symbols of faith from Judaism or Islam are permitted. The Cross without the body of Jesus is a universal symbol like the Star of David.

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David Wexelman

Author of 5 books on the internet on topics of Jewish mysticism, managing two websites.

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