News from the Vault: Bladensburg, Revisited or That Old Rugged Cross
Under the Lemon test, a court must ask whether a challenged government action (1) has a secular purpose; (2) has a “principal or primary effect” that “neither advances nor inhibits religion”; and (3) does not foster “an excessive government entanglement with religion,” 403 U. S., at 612–613
This “offended observer” theory of standing has no basis in law. Federal courts may decide only those cases and controversies that the Constitution and Congress have authorized them to hear. And to establish standing to sue consistent with the Constitution, a plaintiff must show: (1) injury-in-fact, (2) causation, and (3) redressability. The injury-in-fact test requires a plaintiff to prove “an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized . . . and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.”
In place of Lemon, Part II–D of the plurality opinion relies on a more modest, historically sensitive approach, recognizing that “the Establishment Clause must be interpreted by reference to historical practices and understandings.”
The practice [ of opening Congress with a prayer ] begun by the First Congress stands out as an example of respect and tolerance for differing views, an honest endeavor to achieve inclusivity and nondiscrimination, and a recognition of the important role that religion plays in the lives of many Americans. Where categories of monuments, symbols, and practices with a longstanding history follow in that tradition, they are likewise constitutional.
At the dedication ceremony, the keynote speaker analogized the sacrifice of the honored soldiers to that of Jesus Christ, calling the Peace Cross “symbolic of Calvary,” App. 449, where Jesus was crucified. Local reporters variously described the monument as “[a] mammoth cross, a likeness of the Cross of Calvary, as described in the Bible,” id., at 428; “a monster [C]alvary cross,” id., at 431; and “a huge sacrifice cross,” id., at 439. The character of the monument has not changed with the passage of time.