The cross, said Kennedy, "is not merely a reaffirmation of Christian beliefs" but a symbol "often used to honor and respect" heroism.
He added: "Here, one Latin cross in the desert evokes far more than religion. It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies are compounded if the fallen are forgotten."
The Los Angeles Times reported that Kennedy criticised the judges in California for having "concentrated solely on the religious aspects of the cross, divorced from its background and context. A Latin cross is not merely a reaffirmation of Christian beliefs. It is a symbol often used to honor and respect those whose heroic acts, notable contributions and patient striving help secure an honored place in history for this nation and its people.”
In contrast, dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens wrote: "The cross is not a universal symbol of sacrifice. It is the symbol of one particular sacrifice, and that sacrifice carries deeply significant meaning for those who adhere to the Christian faith."
"I certainly agree that the nation should memorialize the service of those who fought and died in World War I, but it cannot lawfully do so by continued endorsement of a starkly sectarian message," wrote Stevens, who was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor
A writer for the Washington Post noted that the court battle began when Frank Buono, a former employee in the 1.6 million-acre Mojave National Preserve, objected to the cross being on a plot of public land and U.S. federal district courts in California ruled that the display was unconstitutional.
However, after veterans groups protested the decision, Congress stopped removal of the cross and declared the site a national monument. Members of Congress devised a plan to swap the land on which the cross was bolted for a piece of private land nearby so that the cross was no longer on public property.
But the courts would not accept the land swap and Kennedy wrote that it was a mistake for them to dismiss Congress's intent in the land swap as "illicit," stating:
"The land-transfer statute embodies Congress's legislative judgment that this dispute is best resolved through a framework and policy of memorial cross. It is encouraging that a majority of our Supreme Court justices agreed.
As evidence of our Founders’ respect for religious ideals, just consider the following statements some of them made:
- "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." — John Adams
- "The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principals of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God." — John Adams
- "Do not let any one claim to be a true American if they ever attempt to remove religion from politics." — George Washington
- "The Law given from Sinai [The Ten Commandments] was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code." — John Quincy Adams
- "Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure...are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments." — Charles Carroll — signer of the Declaration of Independence
- "I therefore beg leave to move-that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service." — Benjamin Franklin, during the constitutional convention, July 28, 1787.
Warren Mass is editor of the Bulletin of The John Birch Society.