As reported at the Religion Clause, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals has permitted the optional inclusion of “So Help Me God” in the oath of naturalization. Referring to the test used by the Supreme Court regarding the Bladensburg Peace Cross, the Court said:
We follow the Supreme Court’s most recent framework and apply American Legion’s presumption of constitutionality to the phrase “so help me God” in the naturalization oath because we consider the inclusion of similar words to be a ceremonial, longstanding practice as an optional means of completing an oath. And because the record does not demonstrate a discriminatory intent in maintaining those words in the oath or “deliberate disrespect” by the inclusion of the words, Perrier-Bilbo cannot overcome the presumption.
That amount of legal defense almost seems ridiculous, given that the plaintiff was complaining about an optional phrase. She wasn’t trying to avoid saying something she didn’t want to; she wanted to prevent others the option of saying it. She’d already been given more than one option to omit the phrase: Read more
As previously discussed, the Bayview Cross in Pensacola, Florida, had been challenged on the same grounds as the Bladensburg Peace Cross, with accusations it was an unconstitutional endorsement of the Christian faith.
The original court ruled against the Bayview Cross — reluctantly, essentially asking the Supreme Court to overrule it. The Supreme Court remanded the Bayview Cross case after its Bladensburg ruling.
Now, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has finally formally ruled the Bayview Cross can stand: Read more
The year 2020 looks to be a promising one, if the momentum of religious liberty in America can be maintained from 2019. The effect of the Trump Administration has been largely positive on religious liberty in the US military, though it has sometimes taken a bit of time for the “new” policy perspective — that is, the constitutional one — to trickle down to action officers.
Multiple websites noted that one of the highlights of church/state issues this year was the ruling on the Bladensburg Cross — a Supreme Court ruling that defended the right of the cross to continue to stand. While encouraging, particularly in that it wasn’t a “close” decision, it is notable that two Read more
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. Militantly secular regimes have carried out such projects in the past…
– Justice Samuel Alito
Yesterday the US Supreme Court issued a 7-2 decision that the Bladensburg Peace Cross could continue to stand and be maintained by the state — even though it was “undoubtedly a Christian symbol.” (Of note, the case was reversed and remanded “for further proceedings,” not simply dismissed.)
Some reports focused on the multiple opinions published by the justices, though these reports largely seemed to come from critics who believed that emphasizing the “splintered” nature of the ruling would Read more
The Sacramento Bee reported that the local community of Cathedral City, California, dedicated the nation’s first “LGBTQ Veterans Memorial” at the end of April:
“It’s kind of a holy place. This is a place to pray for people who died in wars,” Tom Swann Hernandez of Cathedral City told The Sacramento Bee on Tuesday. The gay Marine veteran has been at the forefront of the state designation effort for nearly two decades.
This was the ceremonial designation; the legal designation was noted here last fall.
The short version is if you Read more
A member of the US military wrote an article published online noting he was an Army Captain and Christian — and yet he opposed the existence of the Bladensburg Peace Cross:
My name is CPT Justin M. Lienhard…I am absolutely opposed to any public funds being used to support any religious institutions or beliefs. The Bladensburg cross at the heart of the ongoing Supreme Court battle is an example of exactly that, and it doesn’t represent my service, nor the service of the many people I worked alongside…
I am an avowed Christian. I know that Jesus is my lord savior.
Lienhard’s article is not compelling — and it’s also not entirely forthright.
First, he gives a passionate critique of several strawmen. The Bladensburg Peace Cross has nothing to do with “public funds [supporting] religious institutions or beliefs” — despite his categorical claim it was “exactly that.” He writes about not “march[ing] as a Christian army,” which has nothing to do with the Peace Cross — or just about anything else. Further, contrary to his passionate claim, the Bladensburg Peace Cross wasn’t erected to represent his service, nor honor all veterans. It was erected with the use of private funds to honor the families of 49 local citizens who were killed in World War I. That he would somehow personalize their memorial changes its meaning not one whit.
It is interesting that a US Army Captain would Read more
In February the US Supreme Court will hear the case of the Bladensburg Peace Cross, a near-century old war memorial in Maryland that anti-religious groups claim is an illegal endorsement of religion.
The Cross was ruled “unconstitutional” by the Fourth Circuit, and that is how the case approaches the Supreme Court.
Many have spoken out in defense of the memorial, which might explain why one group that filed a brief in support of the cross went unnoticed.
A group of retired flag officers are asking the Court (PDF) to “correct the court of appeals’ stilted view of the First Amendment” and defend the cross. Those officers include:
This year issues of military religious freedom have boiled to the surface in two primary ways: free exercise and public expression.
For example, in its “top ten” list for 2018, The Baptist Joint Committee, a left-leaning group on religious liberty issues, highlighted the Masterpiece Cakeshop at #8 and the Bladensburg Peace Cross at #7. Similarly, Howard Friedman at the Religion Clause put Masterpiece Cakeshop at #1. The resolution of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which is arguably still ongoing, is directly related to the military: The case will ultimately Read more