Carr: Federal Appeals Court Rules Cross Monument in Pensacola Stays
ATLANTA, GA - Attorney General Chris Carr today praised a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upholding the City of Pensacola’s right to continue to display a World War II-era cross monument in a public park. This ruling will help protect monuments in Georgia – including a 12-foot cross found along the trail of the Chickamauga Battlefield in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, and a stone cross honoring Georgia’s own World War I veterans that sits on a median between two streets in Augusta, Georgia.
Plaintiffs sued the City of Pensacola in 2016, claiming the over 70-year-old cross erected in the City’s Bayview Park violated the Constitution’s prohibition against the establishment of religion. The State of Georgia joined a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the City of Pensacola, and Attorney General Carr today praised the federal appeals court decision to protect the historic cross.
“We strongly believe that memorials like this one do not violate the Constitution and should be protected and preserved,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “Today’s ruling is a great win and provides clear guidance as we continue working to protect these kinds of memorials in Georgia.”
The Eleventh Circuit’s opinion reads in part:
“Even if the original purpose of [the] monument was infused with religion, the passage of time may obscure that sentiment, and … a community may preserve such monuments, symbols, and practices for the sake of their historical significance or their place in cultural heritage.”
The Court continued, “Removal of the Bayview Park cross at this point – more than 75 years after its original erection and more than 50 years after its replacement with the current version – could well, in the Supreme Court’s words, ‘strike many as aggressively hostile to religion.’”
The Eleventh Circuit's decision applies a U.S. Supreme Court decision issued in June of last year that preserved another historic cross monument in Bladensburg, Maryland, which was erected as a World War I memorial. The State of Georgia also joined an amicus brief in support of continued display of the Bladensburg “Peace Cross.”
Alabama led this amicus brief. Georgia joined in addition to the following states: Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah.