Published On: Sat, Nov 3rd, 2018

Supreme Court to hear humanist lawsuit to remove World War I memorial in Maryland

Where is the line between the separation of church and state?

Now the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday said it would review a lower-court ruling that a 93-year-old cross on public land that memorializes a Maryland county’s World War I dead is unconstitutional.

The case involves a 40-foot-tall memorial, known as the “Peace Cross,” erected in the median of a three-highway intersection in Bladensburg, Md., by the American Legion to honor 49 men from Prince George’s County, Md., who died during World War I.

In 1961, the cross and the land in which it sits was acquired by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, a state entity.

Last year, ruling on a 2012 challenge brought by the American Humanist Association, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Va., ruled 2-1 that the cross on public land has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion.

“The Latin cross is the core symbol of Christianity,” the majority said. “And here, it is 40 feet tall; prominently displayed in the center of one of the busiest intersections in Prince George’s County, Maryland; and maintained with thousands of dollars in government funds. Therefore, we hold that the purported war memorial breaches the ‘wall of separation between church and state.'”

Peace Cross

The appeals court did not rule on a remedy for the violation, but the humanist group has sought the cross’s removal.

The American Humanist Association, in its brief, cites several of the Supreme Court’s school prayer decisions in arguing that the 4th Circuit decision was correct.

“When the power, prestige, and financial support of government is placed behind a particular religious belief, the indirect coercive pressure upon religious minorities to conform to the prevailing officially approved religion is plain,” the group’s brief says, in a direct quote from Engel v. Vitale, the 1962 decision that struck down the official prayer composed by New York state for daily recitation in the public schools.

But the American Center for Law and Justice, in its brief in support of the cross, said “it is difficult to see how passive and symbolic displays create a risk of infringement of religious liberty.”

“Cases involving public school children are inapplicable here,” the brief added.

From Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel David Cortman: “One group’s agenda shouldn’t diminish the sacrifice made by America’s veterans and their families. The Supreme Court was right to take up this case so that it has the opportunity to affirm that the offended feelings of a passer-by does not amount to a constitutional crisis. A passive monument like the Bladensburg Cross, which acknowledges our veterans and our nation’s religious heritage, is not an establishment of religion.”

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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