New York, NY, June 20, 2019 … ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) today expressed deep disappointment at the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing a 40-foot Latin cross to continue to stand on a traffic island at a major intersection in Bladensburg, Maryland.
ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt issued the following statement:
We are alarmed that the Supreme Court has allowed a 40-foot memorial cross to remain on government property in Maryland. As Justice Ginsburg wrote in dissent, ‘the principal symbol of Christianity around the world should not look over public thoroughfares, suggesting official recognition of that religion’s paramountcy.’
This decision unfortunately undermines well-established precedents safeguarding the separation of church and state. While religious symbols like this cross and other war memorials maintained on public land may be ‘rooted in history and tradition’ and not perceived as coercive, that should not be the determining principle as to whether they are constitutional. And the Court’s effort to distinguish between crosses that have been in place for a long time and ones that might be erected on government property in the future fails to address the serious concern we have about the message of religious endorsement any such cross or other religious display conveys.
However, it is also important to note that while allowing the cross to remain, the Court’s ruling does not require the State to maintain the cross on public land. As Justice Kavanaugh observed in his concurrence, Maryland authorities can explore other options. We believe they and other municipalities that have similar displays of the Latin Cross as a war memorial should now find a way to relocate these crosses to private land where they will not send a message of religious exclusion and secondary status to Jews and other non-Christians.
In January 2019, ADL joined a broad coalition of religious and civil rights organizations in filing an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to find that the cross on government property violates the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.
Since its founding in 1913, ADL has protected religious liberty by defending the separation of church and state. ADL has filed an amicus brief in nearly every major religious freedom case before the U.S. Supreme Court and countless cases in other courts, and will continue to do so.