March 14 – In an amicus brief submitted today to the U.S. Supreme Court, the American Civil Rights Union argues for a new constitutional standard protecting religious freedom.
The case, Mount Soledad Memorial Association v. Steve Trunk, et al, involves the cross at the Mt. Soledad veterans memorial in San Diego, which the ACLU and other groups want torn down. The Court may decide to hear the case later this year.
The ACRU’s argument – the ‘Coercion Test’ – is that public religious expression does not violate the Constitution’s prohibition against establishment of religion unless it involves coercion. ACRU General Counsel Peter Ferrara, author of the brief, which asks the Court to accept a Writ of Certiorari to hear the case, explains:
“At the time the First Amendment was adopted, the countries of Europe all had ‘Establishments of Religion,’ which meant official government religions enforced by laws requiring attendance at the official church, regular contributions to it, and other preferences in law for members of that church. These establishment policies all involved government coercion to force citizens to support the one favored church. Almost all of the American colonies had such establishments as well, with legal compulsion or coercion as their hallmark.
“These practices, and anything like them involving coercion in regard to religion, are what the framers meant to prohibit in adopting the Establishment Clause, for this is what an Establishment of Religion meant at the time. They did not mean, however, to prohibit any voluntary, public, religious speech, or religious expression or symbolism, which do not involve any such coercion.”
“We hope the Court takes the case and that the justices adopt the Coercion Test so that communities all across America can breathe easier when it comes to public expressions of our religious heritage,” said Susan A. Carleson, chairman and CEO of the ACRU. “It’s time to end the constant harassment by those who misread the First Amendment and demand to erase all traces of religion from the public square.”
Download the brief here. (PDF)