FFRF filed suit in August 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania over a Latin cross on the Lehigh County seal. Co-plaintiffs with FFRF were four of its local members who objected to encountering the religious symbol on county property. The seal is on documents, many official county forms and reports, the county’s website, in a display in the Board of Commissioners meeting room and even on flags displayed prominently at the entrance of county buildings. The board adopted the imagery that appears on the seal in 1944.
On September 28, 2017, Judge Edward Smith ruled that the Lehigh County seal and flag violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Lehigh County appealed FFRF’s victory to the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. After the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a longstanding war memorial cross in Bladensburg, Md., did not violate the Establishment Clause, the Third Circuit asked for additional briefing on the Lehigh case. The Third Circuit relied on the Supreme Court’s Bladensburg cross decision to rule that the Lehigh seal did not violate the Establishment Clause.
- Exhibit 1
- Exhibit 2
- Plaintiff’s Brief in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment
- Brief in Support of Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment
- FFRF News Release: "FFRF sues Pennsylvania county over cross on seal"
- Plaintiffs Response Brief
- Memorandum Opinion
- Notice of Appeal
- Lehigh County Appeal Brief
- FFRF Appeal Brief
- Religious and Civil-Liberties Organizations Amicus Brief
- Lehigh Supplemental Brief
- FFRF Supplemental Brief
- Oral Argument
- Third Circuit Opinion