Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Establishment Clause and Bladensburg Peace Cross
The Bladensburg Peace Cross

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that an historic, cross-shaped monument may be preserved on public land because it does not violate the Constitution's Establishment Clause.

Cultural property watchers may not have noticed the case of American Legion et al. v. American Humanist Assn. et al. that the United States Supreme Court decided last month and which preserved the display of a cross-shaped war memorial on public property. That’s because the case received greatest attention from religious liberty practitioners and constitutional lawyers monitoring the fate of the controversial Lemon test, which the high court first articulated in 1971 in its landmark decision of Lemon v. Kurtzmana judicial test that assesses whether there is improper government endorsement or hindrance of religion.

The American Legion case should interest heritage preservationists, nevertheless, because it tackles the recurring question of how public governments are to maintain historic monuments that contain religious symbolism.

Already the outcome of the supreme court's ruling in the American Legion case has prompted the nation's highest court to ask the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to revisit the matter of City of Pensacola, Florida v. Kondrat’yev so that it can reassess whether Pensacola can keep an historic World War II era cross monument erected in a public park.

The American Legion case focused on the intersection between the preservation of a World War I memorial and the terms of the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause. In a 7-2 decision, the supreme court voted to keep the Bladensburg Peace Cross standing, writing, “As our society becomes more and more religiously diverse, a community may preserve such monuments, symbols, and practices for the sake of their historical significance or their place in a common cultural heritage.” “The passage of time gives rise to a strong presumption of constitutionality.”

Monday, July 1, 2019

El Salvador has petitioned the United States for a Memorandum of Understanding to renew cultural property import controls that preserve archaeological objects from looting and smuggling.

This Maya effigy vessel is one example of the type
of endangered cultural objects looted from El Salvador.
El Salvador is home to archaeological sites that tell us the histories of peoples like the Maya, Nahua and Lencas. To protect this cultural heritage, the government of El Salvador is asking the United States for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to reimpose restrictions on imports of endangered artifacts, first put in place in 1995 and renewed every five years thereafter.

The bilateral agreement of 2015 between the U.S. and El Salvador maintained U.S. import restrictions on specified objects from 8000 B.C. through 1550 A.D. and that are identified on the Designated List. They include figurines, ceramic vessels, incense burners, metal objects, and more cultural artifacts.

El Salvador seeks a continuation of these import protections to protect archaeological material in jeopardy of looting by invoking Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and companion implementing legislation in the U.S., the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA).

A public hearing on El Salvador's request will be held by the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) on July 23, 2019, at 1:30 p.m. EDT. Go on this State Department link to learn how to attend the meeting online.

Photo courtesy of the Secretaría de Cultura de la Presidencia and the U.S. State Department. Text and original photos copyrighted 2010-2019 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, art crime, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, looted, antiquities, stolen relics, smuggled antiquities, illicit antiquities, museum risk management, and archaeology. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission without the express written consent of CHL is strictly prohibited. The materials presented on this site are intended for informational purposes only and should not be used as legal advice applicable to the reader’s specific situation. In addition, the provision of this information to the reader in no way constitutes an attorney-client relationship. Blog url: https://culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com.