The No. 2 GOP lawmaker in the House predicted on Thursday that the Supreme Court will come down in favor of those defending a giant World War I memorial cross at the center of a blockbuster legal and cultural dispute over the role of religion in public life.
House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who led a slate of 64 representatives defending the cross in a legal brief, said he is "very confident" that the justices will side in his favor.
He made his comments in a short interview by phone a day after the court heard oral arguments in the matter.
In a fiery debate over which religious symbols should be permitted on public land, a majority of the justices ultimately seemed sympathetic to keeping the Bladensburg Peace Cross on government property, though it was not clear how sweeping the court's ruling, expected by late June, might be. The cross, located in a busy Maryland intersection, was erected in 1925, and that long history seemed to sway Justice Stephen Breyer, a possible swing vote.
"I feel very confident that we are going to get the right ruling," Scalise said, noting that he and his fellow members are "very interested in seeing this case coming out our way."
The case against the cross was brought by the American Humanist Association, which argued that the government's role in maintaining the 40-foot-tall display was unconstitutional under the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. In a speech delivered outside the courtroom following her argument, the humanists' attorney Monica Miller said she was "really happy with the conversations in the court today."
But Scalise said that after his staff reviewed the arguments, he was convinced the justices would side with the cross's defenders. The Trump administration joined the American Legion and a Maryland government agency in arguing on Wednesday that the cross was constitutional.
"I still feel very confident that, when you look at the argument, that we are going to be successful in this case," he said. He added "it should be a 9-0 decision," though he acknowledged the vote will likely be more narrow.
The bench is currently divided 5-4 among Republican and Democratic appointees.