The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty joined other Christian and Jewish organizations in a brief arguing that a 40-foot cross on government land at a major intersection violates the government’s fundamental obligation to be neutral between competing religious claims.
The friend-of-the-court brief written by church-state scholar Douglas Laycock asks the United States Supreme Court to uphold a lower court ruling that the Peace Cross in Bladensburg, Maryland, “has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion.”
In a dissenting opinion, Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that while a religious symbol, the Latin Cross can also be reasonably interpreted in a non-religious way to commemorate veterans who died in war.
The BJC brief said that argument buries “the true meaning of the cross,” reducing it “from the most fundamental and most sacred Christian symbol to the least of religious symbols.”
“The cross is the most recognizable symbol of the central promise of Christianity,” said Holly Hollman, BJC general counsel. “While Christians commonly display the cross to promote Christian teachings as revealed in scripture, the government should not. The cross is a symbol that is specific to Christianity, and the government’s efforts to claim otherwise are hollow and offensive.”
Oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court are scheduled Feb. 27.