U.S. Supreme Court justices appear to be struggling with whether a 40-foot tall cross honoring the veterans of World War I should be removed from a memorial, according to supporters and opponents who attended oral arguments today.
Last November, the Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments in the consolidated cases of America Legion, et al. v. American Humanist Association and Maryland-National Capital Park v. American Humanist Association, et al. Those arguments were held on Wednesday morning.
Alexandra McPhee, director of Religious Freedom Advocacy at the Family Research Council, helped draft their amicus brief and attended the oral arguments.
In an interview with The Christian Post following oral arguments, McPhee explained that the Supreme Court justices appeared to be searching for a "limiting principle," which involves finding clear limits on government powers.
"What I found interesting was the idea of where to draw the line is so unclear in current Establishment Clause law," explained McPhee.
McPhee said the American Legion, which is arguing in defense of the Bladensburg Cross, was supporting a more "objective standard" which has "greater historical grounding."
McPhee cited Town of Greece v. Galloway, the 2014 Supreme Court decision which concluded that town meetings could open with sectarian prayers, noting that in that case the high court "looked at the nation's traditions, especially at the time of the founding."
"And what the American Legion argued was that at the time of the founding something like a religious display would not be a violation of the Establishment Clause unless it was somehow coercive," continued McPhee.
Richard B. Katskee, legal director at Americans United for Separation of Church and State who also attended oral arguments Wednesday morning, told CP that he believed the high court was unpersuaded by the American Legion.
"The justices clearly were not buying the argument from the American Legion for a simple clear test. 'You can just look for coercion and that settles everything.' They were frustrated by that," said Katskee.
"I think in general the justices were struggling to figure out whether there is or can be one clear simple test, and I think that they came out with the same questions they went in with."