Attorney General Derek Schmidt said the decision Thursday by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding constitutionality of preserving a 40-foot cross in a Maryland state park reinforced reasonable recognition of religious symbolism in the public square.
The Supreme Court rejected the constitutional challenge to the cross displayed on public property in Bladenburg, Md. It was installed to recognize sacrifice of military personnel who died in World War I.
Schmidt, a Republican, said outcome of American Legion v. American Humanist Association should serve to elevate respect for "our nation's religious diversity and traditions above strident anti-religious ideology."
"It recognizes that for many Americans the acceptance of religious symbolism is part of our shared heritage and not an offense to be scrubbed from the public square," Schmidt said.
Attorneys general from more than two dozen states filed a brief in the case seeking to protect historical memorials for veterans that included religious symbols. The brief pointed to examples of memorials that contained religious imagery and could be affected by an adverse ruling in this case. That list included Doniphan County's Highland Cemetery in northeast Kansas.
The cross at the center of the case has been displayed in Maryland for more than 90 years. It was financed by an American Legion post and residents of Prince George's County. It was dedicated in 1925 during a Christian prayer service.
Nick Little, general counsel at the Center for Inquiry, a secular organization in Amherst, N.Y., said the Supreme Court was wrong.
"The very suggestion that a gigantic cross, maintained by taxpayers, and looming ominously over the landscape does not imply an endorsement of Christianity is utter madness," Little said. "That this Orwellian redefinition of facts and language has been sanctified by the highest court in the land is simply frightening."