Religious Displays or Symbols on Public Property
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a case in which the
Washington Metro Transit Authority refused to allow an ad from the Catholic
Archdiocese on its bus because it contained religious content. However,
Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a statement that refusing the religious ad
amounted to viewpoint discrimination.
Board of Trustees of Scarsdale v. McCreary (1985) said that a Christmas
display on public property did not violate the establishment clause of the
Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board v. Pinette (1995) ruled that a KKK
Christmas display did not violate the establishment clause of the First
The Court denied certiorari in City of Edmond v. Robinson (1996) upholding
that a city seal violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment
because it contained a cross.
A splintered Supreme Court in 1989 held that a nativity creche display
inside a county courthouse in Pittsburgh violated the First Amendment’s
Lynch v. Donnelly (1984) upheld the inclusion of a manger scene in a
Christmas display on government property against a First Amendment
establishment clause challenge.
Pleasant Grove v. Summum (2009) determined a city could refuse to place a
monument in a public park because it was a form of government speech immune
from First Amendment review.
Salazar v. Buono (2010) said that transferring a cross from public land to
private land was not an endorsement of religion and did not violate the
The Supreme Court ruled in 2022 in Shurtleff v. Boston determined that, in
this instance, flying a Christian flag on a city flagpole at the request of
a resident was a private expression, not government speech.
The Supreme Court in 2011 declined to hear a case in which a lower court
had ruled Utah Highway Patrol’s roadside crosses violated the establishment
clause of the First Amendment. Justice Clarence Thomas in Utah Highway
Patrol Association v. American Atheists dissented, saying jurisprudence on
the establishment clause needed a cleanup.