Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Supreme Court to Consider "The Cross"

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The Apostle Paul wrote that "the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God."

Tomorrow, the US Supreme Court will consider whether the cross can also mean something different.

Their decision on one cross could decide the fate of many crosses.

Be informed.

It's hard to tell how the Court will rule on this important religious liberty case, but one thing is certain---it will affect many other crosses that stand on public property across our nation.

The issue.

Tomorrow, the Court will hear the case about whether it's constitutional for the 40 foot high Peace Cross in Bladensburg, Maryland to remain on public property.

It stands as a memorial to 49 area soldiers who gave their lives in World War I. The cross was built and placed on private land in 1918.

In 1961, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission acquired the cross and the land, as well as the responsibility to maintain, repair, and otherwise care for the cross.

The commission has spent about $117,000 to maintain and repair the cross since it was acquired. In 2008, it set aside an additional $100,000 for renovations.

The case.

Several non-Christian residents of the county have expressed offense to the cross because, in their mind, the cross amounts to government affiliation with Christianity.

Now several atheists and other "I-don't-like-crosses" groups like the American Humanist Association have jumped into the issue.

And they have sued.

And the case has now come before the highest Court in the land.

An earlier lower court ruling found that the Commission did not violate the Establishment Clause because:

  1. The cross has a secular purpose. 
  2. It neither advances nor inhibits religion. 
  3. It does not have a primary effect of endorsing religion.

The question before the Court tomorrow is:

  1. Is the display and maintenance of the cross unconstitutional? 
  2. Under what test should the constitutionality of a passive display incorporating religious symbolism be assessed? 
  3. Does the expenditure of funds to maintain the cross amount to the government's excessive entanglement with religion?

The legal impact.

The legal team defending the Peace Cross believes this could be the most crucial religious liberty case the Supreme Court handles this term.

That's because if the High Court eventually decides this cross has to go, it could affect thousands of others.

Jeremy Dys, one of the lawyers defending the cross, says:
"This case is very important for a variety of reasons. Because this area of the law is right-now as Justice Clarence Thomas has said---in hopeless disarray. And so there's really needing some clarity for this."

Dys says, "A passive monument isn't forcing you to do anything. This monument, in particular, is just there to remember 49 men who died defending our freedom."

The governor of Maryland agrees. He thinks the cross should stay. He says:
"The monument was never meant to be a religious object. It was meant to honor our veterans, which we're going to fight to protect."

One of those who brought the original case says, "The government on this piece of property is favoring a religion with this huge symbol. When you come across the bridge or approach it from any of the highways, you see nothing but this huge Christian cross."

Another said, "It looks for all the world like, Okay, this is either the state of Maryland or the city of Bladensburg endorsing one religion."

In the suit, one atheist says he is "traumatized" every time he drives by the cross.

One of those who support the cross is wondering, out loud, if the atheist is also traumatized when he drives by telephone poles, noting that the poles have cross beams which cause them to appear to be a cross as well.

And if so, she says, if the Court rules against the cross will we be required to remove all telephone poles?

She's smiling, but only superficially. Everyone informed on this case is concerned about the Court's decision.

Lawyers representing the cross say,
"It's hard to guess how the justices will rule in this particular case. Displays of symbols like the Ten Commandments and Nativity have both won and lost in various courts. Now one of the world's most beloved symbols, the cross, is on the line."

Dys says, "The Supreme Court of the United States is the last best hope for this memorial."

The spiritual impact.

Founding Father Patrick Henry said, "When people forget God, tyrants forge their chains."

Even more so when people fight and spend money to eradicate God or remove Him from His rightful place in the culture and in the heart.

Ravi Zacharias has said:
"Outside the cross of Jesus Christ, there is no hope in this world. That cross and resurrection at the core of the gospel is the only hope for humanity. Wherever you go, ask God for wisdom on how to get that gospel in, even in the toughest situations of life.

While the Court decides if this cross can remain on that public land, tens of millions of us will carry on, and we will continue to cherish it whether it's on a hill far away or on public land in Bladensburg.

And we'll remember the cross is empty. He is risen.

Be Informed. Be Faithful. Be Encouraged.