Editor's Note: The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case American Legion v. American Humanist Association Feb. 27. The case challenges government ownership and display of a 40-foot-tall cross in Bladensburg, Md. Erected in 1925, the cross was intended to be a war memorial for Maryland residents who fought in World War I. In 1985, it was rededicated to honor all veterans. The American Humanist Association is sponsoring the litigation challenging the religious structure's display. (See "People & Events" for a report on the argument.)
Americans United maintains that a cross cannot represent all veterans. On the day of the oral argument, advocates of separation of church and state rallied outside the court to argue for symbols that include all.
Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United, was among the speakers. She delivered the following remarks:
"Friends, let me share with you a direct quote from the highest court of our land: 'The clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.'
"As the United States becomes increasingly religiously diverse, that constitutional protection is more crucial than ever.
"The towering Bladensburg Latin Cross, embodying THE most universally familiar symbol of Christianity, was acquired, rededicated to 'all' veterans, and is maintained by the Montgomery and Prince George's county local governments. It's as clear-cut a case as they come of government preference for one religion over others.
"Intentional or not, this Latin cross memorial conveys the message that the Christians whose lives were lost are more deserving of respect, gratitude and remembrance than the many non-Christians who fought and died beside them.
"Sure, it's easy to say that everybody really knows what the government means by that cross--that it's a good enough symbol to acknowledge and honor all of our veterans and fallen soldiers. They say we should just let it go, it's not a big deal, they didn't mean to offend anyone, it's always been that way.
"These arguments are oh-so-familiar to too many of us who are members of any minority group. And sadly, many of us have surrendered too many times to...