ICC Note: In the summer of last year, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s Lehigh County regarding its official seal. A federal district judge decided last week in favor of the atheist group, stating that the cross needed to be removed from the seal because it “fails the endorsement test.” It was found that the presence of the cross on the county seal was unconstitutional because it served as a government endorsement of Christianity.
By Michael Gryboski
09/29/2017 United States (Christian Post) – A federal judge has ruled that a Pennsylvania county seal is unconstitutional for including a cross, handing a legal victory to a Wisconsin-based atheist organization.
U.S. District Judge Edward Smith released a decision Thursday against Lehigh County’s seal, arguing that having a cross included in the emblem “fails the endorsement test.”
“In this case, neither the longevity of the Seal nor the secular symbols surrounding the cross detract from the religious message that a cross conveys to the reasonable observer,” wrote Judge Smith.
“While the court must defer to the government’s articulation of a secular purpose, the court cannot hold that the County’s articulated purpose is secular. Honoring the settlers by retaining a cross on the Seal is the equivalent of honoring the fact that the settlers were Christian.”
Smith noted that his decision was based on The Lemon Test, the legal precedent which allows for state-supported religious entities provided they fulfill a secular purpose.
Smith also expressed disagreement with the Lemon Test, calling Lehigh County’s seal a “passive symbol” which “does not violate the plain text of the Establishment Clause.”
“While the court does not believe the current state of the law applicable to this case comports with the text of the Establishment Clause, the court is not in a position to reject it,” continued Smith.