"World War I Memorial, Bladensburg, Maryland" by Ben Jacobson / CC BY-SA 3.0

Cross case offers Supreme Court chance to clarify religious expression

Dec 27, 2018

By Kristen Waggoner

Today, it seems like Americans can agree on only one thing: Our country is divided. Worse, we are divided in our approach to our nation’s bedrock principles — including freedom of religion. We are divided today not over merely which religions are acceptable but whether any religious reference is acceptable in the public square. If we cannot find a way to deal with that disagreement, the fissures have the potential to tear us even farther apart.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is a guarantee that the government will not interfere with religious practices. Some groups have interpreted the Establishment Clause to mean a ban on public expressions of religion. Should this interpretation be widely accepted, freedom of religion is in danger of becoming freedom from religion. The case The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, which the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear, is an opportunity to bring clarity to this vital question and truly protect and uphold freedom of religion for all.

The Establishment Clause says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” but our federal courts have made a muddle of what exactly constitutes an “establishment of religion.” Because of this ambiguity, some groups and individuals assert that the mere presence of religious symbols in the public square — where those symbols serve to commemorate our greatest tragedies and celebrate our highest victories and achievements — is unconstitutional.

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