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“Pardon me, but I’m going to pause for a minute because something really exciting just happened. My close friend from law school and the Deputy General Counsel of [the First Liberty Institute] has just been confirmed to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.”

This news broke during Andrew Graham’s presentation at Acton University 2019 titled “A Cross, A Cake and A Crisis: Two Attacks on Religious and Economic Freedom.” Graham is the executive director of policy and education and a senior fellow at First Liberty, which represented the American Legion in the Bladensburg Cross Case, The American Legion v. American Humanist Association. During the course of events at Acton University, First Liberty secured two major victories in the Supreme Court and saw its Deputy General Counsel Matthew Kacsmaryk confirmed to a seat on the federal bench.

Graham gave this particular talk on Wednesday, June 19. The following day, the Supreme Court announced its decision on The American Legion v. American Humanist Association. The Court’s opinion resolved a long battle to safeguard a 94-year-old, 40-foot veterans memorial in the shape of a Latin cross. In a 7-2 ruling, the Court held that the Bladensburg Cross does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The cross will remain in place, dedicated to those who gave their lives for liberty in the First World War.

Justice Alito penned the majority opinion, arguing that the Bladensburg Cross respects the First Amendment and even helps preserve it: “The Religion Clauses of the Constitution aim to foster a society in which people of all beliefs can live together harmoniously, and the presence of the Bladensburg Cross on the land where it has stood for so many years is fully consistent with that aim.”

Alito’s statement reminds me of the eager audience at Graham’s talk, and of the Acton Institute more broadly, whose mission is to explore the intellectual foundations of a free and virtuous society.

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Clare Martin is a 2019 Acton summer intern.