The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday grappled with a major establishment clause dispute over a Latin cross that has stood for more than 70 years as a war memorial on federal land in the Mojave Desert of California. Justices seemed to be seeking a narrow way to decide the case, often getting bogged down in procedural matters, but there were also moments of drama.

At one point late in the arguments in Salazar v. Buono, American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Peter Eliasberg, in challenging the placement of the cross on public land, suggested the cross honored “just Christians.” Justice Antonin Scalia, who is Catholic, angrily interjected, “The cross doesn’t honor non-Christians who fought in the war?” He added, “I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead. The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of the dead.”

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