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The Supreme Court’s Peace Cross case highlights a deeper question about religion

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06.03.2019

In the case of the Peace Cross in Bladensburg, Md., the ostensible issue for the Supreme Court is whether the Constitution permits a local government to maintain a 40-foot World War I memorial in the shape of the Latin cross on public property, or whether this violates the First Amendment clause prohibiting the establishment of an official religion.

The deeper question is the long-term status of publicly supported religious symbolism — everything from the Peace Cross to “In God We Trust” on coins — in a nation that is rapidly becoming less and less religious.

And on that point, there may be nothing the court can do to stop or even slow the trend.

Across the industrialized world, people are losing interest in traditional religion. This process is most advanced in Europe; nearly 80 percent of Swedes described themselves as “not a religious person” or “a convinced atheist” in a WIN-Gallup International survey. However, the United States is catching up, or so most Americans suspect: 76 percent told Gallup last year that religion is “losing influence” in this country. Twelve percent of Americans told Gallup they do not believe in God in 2017; only 1 percent dared admit that in 1944. And the proportion of those who “never” attend services — 28 percent in 2018 — has doubled in the past quarter-century.

Broadly speaking, that is a manifestation of capitalism’s destabilizing impact on tradition. Social scientists have long........

© Washington Post