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A Cross, a cake and a crisis

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“Pardon me, but I’m going to pause for a minute because something really exciting just happened. My close friend from law school and the Deputy General Counsel of [First Liberty Institute] has just been confirmed to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.”

This news broke during Andrew Graham’s presentation at Acton University 2019 on “A Cross, A Cake, and A Crisis: Two Attacks on Religious and Economic Freedom.” Graham is the executive director of policy and education and a senior fellow at First Liberty, which represented the American Legion in the Bladensburg Cross Case, The American Legion v. American Humanist Association. During the course of events at Acton University, First Liberty secured two major victories in the Supreme Court and saw its Deputy General Counsel Matthew Kacsmaryk confirmed to a seat on the federal bench.

During Mr. Graham’s excited announcement, I looked around the room to see who else was witness to this encouraging news. The diversity of the audience was striking. Attorneys, economists, a rabbi, a priest, teachers and students had gathered with a unifying concern: the protection of religious freedom.

Graham gave this particular talk on Wednesday, June 19. The following day, the Supreme Court announced its decision on The American Legion v. American Humanist Association. The Court’s opinion resolved a long battle to safeguard a 94-year-old, 40-foot, veterans memorial in the shape of a Latin cross. In a 7-2 ruling, the Court held that the Bladensburg Cross does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The cross will remain in place with the inscription: “This Memorial Cross Dedicated To The Heroes of Prince George’s County Who Gave Their Lives In The Great War For The Liberty Of The World.”

Justice Alito penned the majority opinion, arguing that the Bladensburg Cross respects the First Amendment and even helps to preserve it.

The Religion Clauses of the Constitution aim to foster a society in which people of all beliefs can live together harmoniously, and the presence of the Bladensburg Cross on the land where it has stood for so many years is fully consistent with that aim.

This statement affirms the Founders’ intent to enshrine religious freedom in the Constitution, since freedom of worship preserves harmony among a diversity of beliefs.

Alito’s statement reminds me of the eager audience at Graham’s talk, and of the Acton Institute more broadly, whose mission is to explore the intellectual foundations of a free and virtuous society. Victories such as the Court’s decision that preserves the Bladensburg Cross will replenish the hope and energy of those citizens and millions more across America in the ongoing fight for religious freedom.


To read more about the fundamental connection between religious and economic freedom, see this Commentary by the Acton Institute’s very own Trey Dimsdale here.

Also, listen to Trey Dimsdale’s discussion with Andrew Graham on the Bladensburg Cross Case available on Acton Line, the official podcast of the Acton Institute, here.

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Clare Martin Clare is an intern at the Acton Institute this summer. She graduated from Saint Louis University with Bachelor's degrees in Mathematics and Philosophy. She will be attending law school at Washington University in St. Louis this fall.

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