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ACLU Urges Supreme Court to Uphold Separation of Church and State

WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Maryland, and allied religious and civil rights organizations filed a Supreme Court friend-of-the-court brief today in support of a constitutional challenge to a giant government-sponsored cross.

The case, American Legion v. American Humanist Association, involves the government’s display of a 40-foot Latin cross as a war memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland. The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which owns and maintains the display, says its cross represents American soldiers of every faith who fought and died for their country — even though the Latin cross is the preeminent symbol of Christianity.

If the Supreme Court sides with the commission, it could upend nearly 50 years of law under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from preferring one faith over others.

Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, had the following response:

“The Bladensburg cross sends a clear message of religious favoritism, in blatant violation of the Constitution. In this country, we should honor our veterans under one flag, not one specific religious symbol.”

Dana Vickers Shelley, executive director of the ACLU of Maryland, commented:

“Maryland is a diverse state, with residents and veterans from many religious traditions or who do not practice religion. It is important for our government to be inclusive in the way that the sacrifices made on behalf of the country are honored.” 

Organizations joining the ACLU and the ACLU of Maryland on the brief include the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State; Anti-Defamation League; Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America Inc.; Hindu American Foundation; Jewish Social Policy Action Network; Men of Reform Judaism; National Council of Jewish Women; People For the American Way Foundation; Reconstructing Judaism; Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association; Union for Reform Judaism; and Women of Reform Judaism.

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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