Maryland National Capital Park v. Humanist Association

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
  • Date Filed: November 2, 2018
  • Case #: 18-18
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 874 F.3d 195 (4th Cir. 2017)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the Establishment Clause requires removal or destruction of a cross-shaped World War I memorial on government property.

Petitioner has spent roughly $217,000.00 preserving a cross-shaped World War I monument in a Veterans Memorial Park. Respondents requested a court order removing or demolishing the memorial, arguing that the cross-shape of the memorial constitutes an unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity. The district court granted summary judgment to Petitioner, finding that the memorial served a secular purpose within a context and history that suggested the memorial did not endorse a religion.  The Fourth Circuit reversed and denied further review. The Fourth Circuit applied the U.S. Supreme Court’s Lemon test to determine whether display and preservation of the memorial violated the Establishment Clause. While the Fourth Circuit found the memorial served legitimate secular purposes, a divided panel concluded that the memorial had the unconstitutional effect of endorsing Christianity to the exclusion of other faiths due to its shape as a Christian symbol. Petitioner argues that the Fourth Circuit disregarded both the community’s understanding of the memorial and Supreme Court precedent that allows for preservation of religious symbols that attain a historical meaning beyond the expression of religious view. Petitioner articulates that the historic meaning of the cross in this context relates to recognizing servicemen that perished overseas. Petitioner concludes that only the Supreme Court can resolve the disagreement between circuits as to whether crosses can serve as a secular symbol of commemoration.

Advanced Search

Back to Top