American Legion v. American Humanist Association

Case Name: The American Legion, et al., v. American Humanist Association, et al.

Type of Case: Religious Liberty

Court: United States Supreme Court

Case Number: 17-171718-18

Filed On: June 25, 2018

Current Status: Supreme Court upheld constitutionality of cross-shaped WWI Memorial on public land

Cases applying the Establishment Clause to public displays of religious monuments are notoriously tangled and inconsistent.  No clear test for such challenges has emerged, and courts attempting to apply the existing tests come to vastly disparate results, demonstrating that as a practical matter, judges can just rule for displays they like and against displays they don’t.

This case presented an opportunity for the U.S. Supreme Court to establish a simple test and return to the original intent of the Establishment Clause – prohibiting the direct establishment of an official government religion or the compulsion of religious observation.  We filed an amicus brief urging the Court to do so.

In a 7-2 ruling, the Court found that the cross did not violate the Establishment Clause.  However, the Court remained splintered as to the proper test for evaluating Establishment Clause claims, although it now appears that monuments and practices that are long-standing will usually survive scrutiny.



WILL filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in a pair of consolidated cases, The American Legion v. American Humanist Association and Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission v. American Humanist Association. The amicus asks the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a Fourth Circuit decision and decide that a war memorial that features a cross does not violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.