Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Crossing Party Lines

The Supreme Court ruled on Salazar v. Buono today. This is the case about a big wooden cross erected by the VFW in 1934 on federal land to honor WWI KIAs.

There was no actual clean cut decision. There were something like four decisions. But as SCOTUSblog put it:

Justice Kennedy’s favorable comments about religious displays “in the public realm” were supported by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and by Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. (who expressed even more favorable comments in his separate opinion).  To those three probably could be added, in what Justice Antonin Scalia said would have to be “a proper case” in the future, the votes of Justices Scalia and Clarence Thomas, because in prior disputes they have supported such displays.

This time, I actually side with the activist conservative bloc of the court. I'm all for the separation of church and state. But this is a little ridiculous. It's a memorial. It's not forcing religion on anyone. Some things can be taken too far. The decision was so fractured and complex that I doubt it can be used as a precedent for anything really obnoxious.


  1. I won’t use the slippery slope metaphor however I am a little concerned about letting the camel’s nose in the tent. In this case the government doesn’t really endorse religion. All it does in permit a memorial to fallen soldiers but it is a Christian memorial. America’s evangelicals will not stop until the entire camel is in the tent and America has become a Christian Theocracy. This decision probably does not move us toward that goal but it does remind us that the battle to define America continues.

  2. I will say that due to judicial precedents, slippery slope can actually be a valid argument. While I'm far from a constitutional scholar, I find it hard to see that a decision this convoluted and narrow could serve as a precedent for more malicious display of religious symbolism.