Circuit Court Says WWI Cross Must Come Down

“To remove it would be a tremendous dishonor to the local men who gave their lives during The Great War.”

An activist group's attempt to erase any imagery associated with Christianity from the public square has claimed another victim, this time a cross dedicated to the fallen of World War I.

The American Humanist Association is celebrating the ruling of the Fourth Circuit Court which says the cross in Maryland violates the premise of separation of church and state: “The court correctly ruled that the cross unconstitutionally endorses Christianity and favors Christians to the exclusion of all other religious Americans,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel the AHA.

Fox News reports that the cross was erected in Bladensburg, Md., back in 1925 to honor 49 local men that died.

The memorial was originally erected on land owned by the Legion along what was then called the National Defense Highway. As the highway, now Maryland Route 450, continued to expand the land was ceded to the government in 1961. The monument remained in place and created no controversy until the lawsuit was launched in 2014 by the AHA.

As Fox reports, an appeal may be considered:

First Liberty Institute and the Jones Day law firm are representing the American Legion in their fight. “This memorial has stood in honor of local veterans for almost 100 years and is lawful under the First Amendment,” Jones Day attorney Michael Carvin said. “To remove it would be a tremendous dishonor to the local men who gave their lives during The Great War.”

While two of the three judges on the court said the cross was in violation of the law, Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote a dissenting opinion that said the cross does not violate the Establishment Clause. According to Chief Judge Gregory, the Establishment Clause was never intended to purge religion from the public square and if so used might actually bring about the social discord it was meant to stop.

He also cited Supreme Court cases that have ruled in favor of such memorials by using what is called the reasonable observer test.

"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," Judge Gregory wrote.

Judge Gregory points out that the memorial also carries the names of the 49 fallen it was originally intended to honor, a quote from President Woodrow Wilson, the seal of the American Legion and the words "Valor, endurance, courage and devotion."

Issues

Organizations