On February 27, 2019, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of the American Legion v. American Humanist Association. The case centers around a 40-foot-tall Christian cross on public property in Bladensburg, Maryland which serves as a World War I memorial. To date, maintenance of the monument has already cost the government $117,000 in taxpayer funds and an additional $100,000 have already been earmarked for additional repairs.
Below are a transcript and video of the Secular Coalition for America’s address at a rally organized by the American Humanist Association (a higher quality video will be posted when and if it becomes available).
I want to begin by thanking the American Humanist Association for giving us the opportunity to speak at this historic rally, and to commend them for all the great work they’ve done on this landmark case. From day one, this was an uphill battle and we should applaud the attorneys and staff of the American Humanist Association — all of whom have displayed unwavering courage and integrity in the face of great adversity.
The Bladensburg cross does not represent all veterans. Instead, it stands as a symbol of Christian privilege and a remnant from a bygone era when nontheists and religious minorities were — at best — an afterthought.
A recurring theme in American history is our constant struggle to live up to the aspirations of the founders, who envisioned the United States as an inclusive, secular, and pluralistic democracy. And while it is true that we have often fallen short of these ideals, our history is defined by those moments in which everyday people came together to demand our government make good on the promises enshrined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Today is one of those moments. For decades, nontheists and religious minorities, have fought to be represented in the public square. In schools, town halls, and state legislatures across the country, brave men and women have stood up to challenge the entrenched power of the religious majority. The rights we enjoy today were won by these activists and plaintiffs who demanded to be included in the institutions, the symbols, and the spaces that make up this great country.
We are here today to continue this fight.
We are here today to see that history is preserved and not rewritten by the dominant Christian majority.
We are here today to give a voice to all those non-Christian veterans who have selflessly served their country.
And last but not least, we are here today to make sure that this memorial honors ALL those Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice!
If the Court allows this monument to stand, it will be tearing down a crucial piece of the wall between church and state. As a secular nation, it is imperative that our memorials convey a sense of shared identity that invites all those who see them to feel they have a part to play in the American experiment. If the Supreme Court allows a Christian cross to honor all veterans, it will be giving lawmakers across the country a license to build monuments that tell non-Christians they are second class citizens.
The United States has never been a Christian nation.
Our country was built by people belonging to every faith … and no faith … with the common understanding that the American project was — at its core — an inclusive one. We urge the Justices to reaffirm this fundamental truth.
The stakes for this case could not be higher … but no matter what happens here today, the Secular Coalition for America, along with our nineteen member organizations, and our supporters, will continue fighting to preserve the secular foundation this country was built upon.