Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Fast Forward

Will Jewish Justice Elana Kagan Keep A Christian Cross On Government Land?

Supreme Court experts say that Justice Elena Kagan is the vote to watch in an upcoming case over whether a memorial cross on government-owned land violates constitutional guidelines on the separation between church and state.

Kagan, who is Jewish, has written forcefully in favor of church-state separation. But on the issue of religious memorials on government-owned land, her views are may not fall in line with the court’s other liberal members, according to a Washington Post article published February 25.

In 2010, when she served as Solicitor General of the United States, Kagan successfully argued before the Supreme Court that another cross located on government land was not in violation of the Constitution’s establishment clause. It’s the most recent instance of the court taking up the matter of memorial crosses on public land before this week’s upcoming oral argument.

The latest case, captioned Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission v. American Humanist Association, will decide whether a memorial cross located on public land dedicated to U.S. soldiers killed in the First World War violates the establishment clause and should be removed. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a district court decision last March, ruling that the cross must go. According to the Washington Post, the Supreme Court is expected to reverse the 4th Circuit Court. Whether they make a broad decision, with far-reaching implications for religious monuments across the country, is up to Kagan.

Kagan could side with the liberals. But if she joins the conservatives, court watchers say, the impact could be significant.

“I think Justice Kagan might want to find a place in the middle that’s more than just ‘we know it when we see it,’” Richard Garnett, a professor at the University of Notre Dame Law, told the Washington Post.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at [email protected] or on Twitter, @joshnathankazis

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.