US Court Hears Arguments About Cross On Park Land

October 7, 2009

Author: Mark Sherman


The Supreme Court appeared divided between conservatives and liberals Wednesday over whether a cross on federal park land in the state of California violates the U.S. Constitution.

Several conservative justices seemed open to the Obama administration's argument that Congress' decision to transfer to private ownership the land on which the cross sits in the Mojave National Preserve should take care of any constitutional questions.

"Isn't that a sensible interpretation" of a court order prohibiting the cross' display on government property? Justice Samuel Alito asked.

The liberal justices, on the other hand, indicated that they agree with a federal appeals court that ruled that the land transfer was a sort of end run around the a constitutional amendment prohibiting government endorsement of religion.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the decisive vote in these cases, said nothing to tip his hand.

The tenor of the discussion suggested that the justices might resolve this case narrowly, rather than use it to make an important statement about their view of the separation of church and state.