If you ever wonder about the impact a Supreme Court decision on religious liberty can have, you need look no further than Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. The county seal has a number of symbols surrounding the county courthouse. There is a heart, a cow, a grain silo, a factory, and a cross. Well, the Freedom from Religious Foundation had a problem with the cross on the seal and took them to court.
A federal district court judge ruled that the county seal was an unconstitutional establishment of religion based on what is called “the Lemon test.” Back in 1971, in the case of Lemon v. Kurtzman, the justices established a three-prong test. There needed to be secular purpose, the act should neither advance nor inhibit religion, and there should be no excessive government entanglement. The judge, therefore, ruled that the county seal failed to pass “the Lemon test.”
There is where the latest Supreme Court case comes into play. The justices ruled that the Peace Cross in Bladensburg, Maryland was constitutional and did not have to be torn down. Moreover, five of the Supreme Court justices agreed that “the Lemon test” no longer applied to “monuments, symbols, mottos, displays, and ceremonies.”
Well, it didn’t take long for this precedent to be applied. The decision concerning the Lehigh County seal was on hold at the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Thomas Hardiman cited the Supreme Court decision and ruled that the seal of Lehigh County is constitutional and can remain.
It is worth mentioning that Thomas Hardiman has been on President Trump’s shortlist of potential Supreme Court nominees. Two judges that were on that list (Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh) now sit on the Supreme Court. We may hear more from Judge Hardiman in the future.