In Florida, four people teamed up with the atheist groups Freedom from Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association to legally fight the presence of a 78-year-old memorial cross located on public property. The groups tried to ensure that their opinions could overrule the voice of the majority in the area, of history, and of religious liberty in the United States.
However, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued the ruling Wednesday that the Bayview Cross in Pensacola—built as a place for the community to gather before World War II—will stand, and that it does not violate the Constitution.
In fact, the ruling was a direct result of the 2016 election, because the court based it’s opinion on the recent decisions handed down by the Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court has now made clear that religious symbols are an important part of our nation’s history and culture,” Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, said in a statement.
The federal appeals court ruled the cross is constitutional, noting it has become “embedded in the fabric of the Pensacola community” and that removing it could “strike many as aggressively hostile to religion.”
Four individuals, represented by the American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, sued the city in 2016, demanding the cross be torn down.
Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson celebrated the ruling.
“Pensacola is a historic city with a rich and diverse history. The Bayview Cross is an important part of that history as a symbol of our community’s coming together during a national crisis,” Robinson said. “Today the citizens of Pensacola will celebrate our long-awaited victory and the preservation of the Bayview Cross.”
The decision came after the June 2019 Supreme Court’s landmark religious liberty case, American Legion v. American Humanist Association, in which First Liberty Institute successfully defended the World War I memorial cross in Bladensburg, Md.
“The Supreme Court made clear in The American Legion decision that the days of governments roaming the land to scrub all public symbols of faith are over,” Mike Berry, general counsel to First Liberty Institute, said. “We’re thrilled to see our victory in that case already making an impact and protecting religious freedom across the country.”
Monica Miller, American Humanist Association legal director and senior counsel, said the group is exploring all their options, calling it a “devastating blow” to the Establishment Clause.
“It is troubling to see the court attack the principle of church-state separation that was held dear by our Founders,” Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, said. “Today’s decision is part of the religious right’s ongoing crusade to privilege Christianity at the expense of true religious freedom for all.”
Where Speckhardt gleans his encompassing ‘information’ about the founders is anyone’s guess, given the actual history of many of their beliefs. Others argue that the so-called “crusade to privilege Christianity” is nowhere in the nation, and in fact, the opposite is true.
Until recently, the assault on any and all Christian symbols had been rampant. The previous president claimed, “Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.”
Yet, it appears to many people that America seeking to reestablish what it once was, and embracing the beliefs of a huge portion of the population—and American history—is not a crusade… it’s justice.