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Foundation for Moral Law files brief in Pensacola cross case

Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept.

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday, the Foundation for Moral Law filed an amicus brief in the case of Amanda Kondrat’yev et. al v. City of Pensacola, which is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. In that case, a group of Atheists and Humanists sued the city of Pensacola after being offended at the presence of a cross in Bayview Park. The plaintiffs were represented by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association. The trial judge reluctantly ordered the city to remove the cross, but the city appealed.

The cross has stood in the 28 acre Bayview Park for 76 years without anyone seeking its removal. The original wooden cross was donated to the city by the Jaycees in 1941. The same group replaced the aging wooden cross in 1969 with the current version. The cross has been used as a gathering place for Pensacolians for Easter sunrise services, Veterans Day events, Memorial Day events and other community gatherings for decades.

“The Freedom From Religion Foundation has continued its unrelenting assault on our nation’s Christian heritage by attacking the Pensacola Cross. The Founding Fathers would have had no problem with the cross, and we are happy to help defend it,” Foundation President Kayla Moore said in a statement.

“Recently, a majority of Justices on the Supreme Court have been analyzing cases like these in light of the First Amendment’s actual history instead of the confusing tests that the Court has manufactured over the years. We are confident that the Supreme Court would uphold the constitutionality of the Pensacola Cross if it took the case in the future,” foundation staff attorney, Matthew Clark, added.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) led a coalition of 14 state attorneys general in filing a friend of the court brief supporting the city of Pensacola, Florida’s right to keep a historic cross on display in a public park. AG Marshall has also filed an amicus brief with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals supporting the city of Pensacola’s appeal of a June 19, 2017, lower federal court ruling ordering the city to remove the Latin cross from Bayview Park.

“The large cross in Pensacola’s Bayview Park is a local landmark dating back more than seven decades. The cross is woven into the fabric of Pensacola’s history and its presence in a public park does not violate the First Amendment’s prohibition of the establishment of religion, as opponents have claimed. To continue down the road of the lower court’s reasoning would open the door to challenges of religious symbols on thousands of monuments and memorials on public property across the country,” Marshall said in a statement.

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Attorney General Marshall’s brief in the case Amanda Kondrat’yev v. City of Pensacola, Florida, asserts that the lower federal court ruling against the display of the cross ignores legal precedent protecting the display of historical monuments, including religious symbols, on public property.

“States, counties, and municipalities have historically included, or allowed private parties to include, religious texts and symbols on monuments and other displays on public property. The amici States have an interest in maintaining that practice, consistent with a proper understanding of the Establishment Clause,” the brief stated.

Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward thanked Marshall, the Foundation and other groups for their support. “Pensacola has played a pivotal role in American history, and it should be able to celebrate its history. We’re grateful for this strong show of support from around the country.”

Pensacola and Mayor Hayward are represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

“The public square can and should reflect the important role that religion plays in our history and culture. We don’t have to censor our history and culture just because part of it is religious,” Becket Fund Deputy General Luke Goodrich said.

The American Humanists Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation have until November 16 to file their legal brief. Then, Becket will have until December 14 to file a reply.

Alabama was joined by Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah in filing the brief.

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The Foundation for Moral Law is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the strict construction of the Constitution according to the intent of the Framers and to the right to acknowledge God in the public arena. The foundation was founded by former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R). Moore is the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions (R) when Sessions became U.S. Attorney General. Kayla Moore is former Chief Justice Moore’s wife.

(Original reporting by The Pensacola News Journal contributed to this report.)

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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