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

From Alito Activism to Sloppy Lemons: 3 Takeaways From the Bladensburg Cross Oral Argument

Mar 4, 2019

By Andrew L. Seidel

The Supreme Court’s first big state-church separation case in years had a distinct David and Goliath feel—impossible to miss while sitting in the courtroom for the oral argument.

On the side of the Constitution was a young attorney, one of only four women to speak in the court that day, representing the American Humanist Association and other plaintiffs challenging a 40-foot-tall Christian cross. On the side of that cross was arrayed a massive force: the solicitor general, bringing to bear the full weight of the United States government; a partner from Jones Day, the world’s fifth-largest law firm, representing the American Legion, which is the nation’s largest military veteran organization (Jones Day was pulled into the case by First Liberty Institute, a Christian nationalist outfit with a $10 million annual budget whose attorneys swaggered around the nation’s highest court as if they owned it); and a former acting solicitor general of the United States who is now a partner at Hogan Lovells (the world’s fourth-largest law firm), representing the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Government, military, and Christian nationalism versus the simple principle woven into the fabric of our Constitution: the separation of state and church. It was a striking dichotomy.

Trying to prognosticate a case based on the oral argument is dangerous, and I won’t attempt it here. But there were three interesting takeaways.

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