• The Problem with the Peace Cross: American Legion v American Humanist Association and the Power of Courts to Shape Societal Memory

    Author(s):
    Adam McDuffie (see profile)
    Date:
    2021
    Group(s):
    Religious Studies
    Subject(s):
    Religion, Law, Memory, History
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    Law and religion, civil religion, United States Supreme Court, World War I, monuments
    Permanent URL:
    https://doi.org/10.17613/3rk1-cc39
    Abstract:
    In June 2019, in the case of American Legion v. American Humanist Association, the United States Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that a World War I memorial cross could remain on public land without violating the Establishment Clause. The Court sought to produce a ruling focusing specifically on the historical context and motivations for construction of the so-called Bladensburg Peace Cross. Drawing from a history of the cross as a generalized symbol of the war, emptied of particular religious significance, the Court majority reached the conclusion the monument merely evoked this secularized usage and nothing more. This decision represents an ignorance of the pervasiveness of religious nationalism throughout World War I, and furthermore provides an example of the Supreme Court’s underexplored role as an arbiter of societal memory. Drawing on insights from the study of civil religion and memory, this paper explores the unique manner in which SCOTUS is recasting the memory of the Bladensburg Peace Cross, and the memory of cross imagery in World War I more broadly, while reflecting on the greater consequences of the Court shaping societal memory through flawed interpretation of history.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    3 months ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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