Prominent conservative religious freedom lawyers and a lawyer from one of the nation's leading secular legal groups debated two cases that could potentially be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Alex J. Luchenitser, the associate legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church of State, was the lone secular legal advocate on a panel Tuesday at the Jones Day office in Washington, D.C.
The panel discussed the prospects that two Establishment Clause cases that were decided by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals last year will be taken up by the nation's top court this year.
The first case is Rowan County v. Lund. Earlier this year, the en banc Fourth Circuit ruled 10-5 that the commissioners of Rowan County, North Carolina, violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by holding commissioner-led prayers at the beginning of their twice-monthly public meetings.
The second case is The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, a case in which the constitutionality of a 40-foot cross' existence as a World War I memorial on public land is challenged. As the cross was erected in 1925 by local citizens in a rural town outside of Washington, D.C., the cross is now noticeably visible from a busy D.C. suburban intersection. Last year, the Fourth Circuit ruled that the the giant cross on public land is unconstitutional.
"Those cases are going to be up before the justices at their conference next Monday," Amy Howe, founder of SCOTUSBlog and moderator of the panel, said. "So we could hear something if the Supreme Court sort of follows the practice that it has for the last couple of years, we could hear something as soon as Thursday Sept. 27."