Comparison Case: American Legion

FRQ #3.

In Bladensburg, Maryland, private citizens constructed a World War I memorial in the form of a tall cross. Since 1961, a Maryland park and planning commission has owned and maintained the cross with public funds. The Latin cross sits at a busy 5-way intersection and is representative of the Christian religion. The memorial lists local war dead and has the words “valor, endurance, courage, and devotion” appearing at its base. The American Humanist Society and local residents sued to have the cross removed. The American Legion, which used to maintain the cross and still holds ceremonies before it, intervened and became a party to the suit to keep the memorial.

In American Legion v. American Humanist Association, the Supreme Court ruled that the cross can remain and remain in the park commission’s hands. The Court considered the intent and purpose of the cross, and though admitted its religious symbolism, pointed to its secular and historic purposes. For many, destroying or removing the cross by government order, would constitute government hostility toward their religion. The Court reminded that it answered the question of whether or not to remove an old monument, not the constitutionality of constructing one now.

(A) What is the common clause at issue in both American Legion v. American Humanist Association and Engel v. Vitale?

(B) Explain how the facts in both the American Legion and the Engle cases led to different holdings.

(C) Explain an action the American Humanist Society could take to further separate church and state in this case.