It says a lot about a society when Veteran’s memorials that have stood for 90 years are ruled unconstitutional. Bladensburg, Maryland has been home to the 40 foot “Peace Cross” since 1925. But on Wednesday, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals told the American Legion that the cross must be torn down. Only one Judge, a Clinton nominee to the bench, stood against the ruling.
“Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set.”
In 2014, the American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit against Bladensburg, demanding that the cross be removed, altered, or torn down because it was an unmistakable symbol of Christianity, and violated the “Establishment Clause.”
Below the cross is a plaque that contains the names of 49 men who died in WWI. At the base of the cross on each side are inscribed the words “VALOR,”
“ENDURANCE,” “COURAGE,” and “DEVOTION.” The American Legion symbol is in the center of the cross.
The Judge who disagreed with the majority
The dissenting opinion by Judge Gregory stated that the establishment clause should not be taken past the historical limits of its intent. The intent of the Constitution was to provide neutrality for different churches, not to remove religion altogether. His opinion reads in part:
“Despite the religious nature of the Latin cross, a reasonable observer must also
adequately consider the Memorial’s physical setting, history, and usage. The Memorial
was created to commemorate the forty-nine soldiers who lost their lives in World War I,
as explicitly stated on the plaque attached to its base. …(“THIS
MEMORIAL CROSS DEDICATED TO THE HEROES OF PRINCE GEORGE’S
COUNTY MARYLAND WHO LOST THEIR LIVES IN THE GREAT WAR FOR THE
LIBERTY OF THE WORLD.”). The plaque also includes a quotation from President
Woodrow Wilson stating, “The right is more precious than peace. We shall fight for the
things we have always carried nearest our hearts. To such a task we dedicate our lives.”
The Memorial has functioned as a war memorial for its entire history, and it sits among other secular monuments in Veterans Memorial Park, though it is separated from the other monuments by intersecting highways…
…I cannot agree that a monument
so conceived and dedicated and that bears such witness violates the letter or spirit of the very Constitution these heroes died to defend.” Judge Gregory
The American Legion could appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
“Today’s decision sets dangerous precedent by completely ignoring history, and it threatens removal and destruction of veterans memorials across America.” First Liberty Institute attorney Hiram Sasser