The removal of the Bladensburg monument would not be considered neutral by the justices. The passage of time turns the monument into a historical monument, rather than the focus being on religion. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.
In The American Legion v. AHA, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the Peace Cross was, and is, a religious symbol. The Justices even noted that some who erected the memorial had a religious motivation in doing so. But, the majority of the court rejected the idea that that religious symbolism or religious meaning meant the memorial must be destroyed.
As Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority of the Justices, “Even if the original purpose of a monument was infused with religion, the passage of time may obscure that sentiment.”
Over time, he notes, “a community may preserve such monuments, symbols, and practices for the sake of their historical significance or their place in a common cultural heritage” and “as time goes by, the purposes associated with an established monument, symbol, or practice often multiply.”
In other words, what was once viewed as religious may now simply be considered historical. But, the passage of time makes that line more difficult to see. But, that’s ok.
As Justice Alito explained, “With sufficient time, religiously expressive monuments, symbols, and practices can become embedded features of a community’s landscape and identity. The community may come to value them without necessarily embracing their religious roots.”
And, if it is so firmly rooted to the community, he concluded, “removing it may no longer appear neutral.”
On the next First Liberty Briefing, let’s talk about what The American Legion case means for the Lemon test.
To learn how First Liberty is protecting religious liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.