Mojave Cross Ruling Shows A Supreme Court Shift In deciding that lower courts went too far in ordering the dismantling of a cross on public land to honor fallen soldiers in World War I, justices said the Constitution does not require the eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm. The decision shows the court has moved toward a greater accommodation between church and state.
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Mojave Cross Ruling Shows A Supreme Court Shift

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Mojave Cross Ruling Shows A Supreme Court Shift

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Mojave Cross Ruling Shows A Supreme Court Shift

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C: The justices were deeply divided, but ruled yesterday that lower courts went too far in ordering the cross dismantled. The court said the Constitution does not require the eradication of all religious symbols in public. Here's NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.

NINA TOTENBERG: Jay Sekulow, of the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, saw the ruling as a green light for religious symbols on public land, whether erected by the government itself or by land transfers to private entities.

JAY SEKULOW: If you look at this case, coupled with the 10 Commandments Case, it's becoming very clear that the public display of monuments, even religious monuments, is not a, per se, violation of the Constitution.

TOTENBERG: But Peter Eliasberg of the ACLU disagrees.

PETER ELIASBERG: If we're talking about a symbol that maybe has been there for 70 years, that might be the result, but if you're talking about a symbol that's been there for five years or 10 years or 20 years, it could be a completely different result. I don't see this as any kind of broad pronouncement that shows that in any case in the future where the government's held to have acted unconstitutionally, can just simply go turn around and transfer the land under any set of circumstances and that alone would be enough to remedy the problem.

TOTENBERG: University of Michigan Law Professor Douglas Laycock, who filed a brief urging the court to uphold the order to dismantle, notes that yesterday's ruling did not resolve the big question waiting to be answered: whether the government can itself place a religious symbol on government land.

DOUGLAS LAYCOCK: The real issue about, you know, whether it's crosses or any other kind of display, is postponed until the next case, and I'm not optimistic about how the next case is going to come out.

TOTENBERG: Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

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