Press Release

Supreme Court orders lower court to reconsider Bayview Cross ruling Order gives new life to historic WWII-era cross

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

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WASHINGTON  The U.S. Supreme Court today ordered a lower court to rethink its earlier ruling against a historic World War II-era cross in Pensacola, Florida. In Kondrat’yev v. City of Pensacolaa federal appeals court had ruled that the 78-year-old cross must come down, with two of the three judges saying that the outcome was “wrong” but that their “hands were tied” because of the notorious Lemon test (see video)In today’s order, the Supreme Court instructed the lower court to reconsider its ruling in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding another cross monument in Bladensburg, Maryland. 

In American Legion v. American Humanist Association, decided last week, the Supreme Court rejected an atheist group’s attempt to tear down a nearly 100-year-old World War I memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland, known as the “Peace Cross.” In its 72 decision, the Court refused to apply the Lemon test, instead adopting a “strong presumption of constitutionality” for longstanding monuments. The ruling recognized that a “government that roams the land, tearing down” religious symbols “will strike many as aggressively hostile to religion,” which the Constitution does not require. The Court today told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to apply these same principles to the cross in Pensacola.  

The Supreme Court’s order is an encouraging sign that the Bayview cross can stay in Pensacola just like the Peace Cross can stay in Maryland,” said  Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. We fully expect the lower court to follow the Supreme Court’s lead.” 

A wooden cross was first placed in Pensacola’s Bayview Park in 1941 by the Jaycees, a local community service group, as the U.S. prepared to enter World War II. The cross has been a popular gathering place for over 75 years and is one of over 170 displays in Pensacola’s parks commemorating the city’s history and culture. In 2016, an atheist organization sued the city, claiming that the cross is “offensive” and establishes a government religion. 

Becket is representing the City of Pensacola free of charge together with Stanford Law Professor and former Tenth Circuit Judge Michael W. McConnell. The city is also represented by J. Nixon Daniel, III, and Terrie L. Didier of Beggs & Lane. 

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becketattorney, contact  Ryan Colby atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7219.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.