The memorial structure in Bladensburg was constructed in 1925.
On October 18, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial is an unconstitutional structure . The 40-feet high cross-shaped memorial has stood on public land from 1925. The structure, popularly known as Peace Cross, is said to “aggrandize the Latin cross” so much that an impersonal observer would make the deduction that the cross endorses Christianity.
The ruling is a divided one, with two for, and one against. This judgment reverses a court decision delivered in 2015. Earlier, the court said the aim of this cross cannot be described as mainly religious. It said the site of the construction was used almost solely for the celebration of federal holidays.
The October 18 ruling is a victory for the American Humanist Association, the organization which filed the primary lawsuit. This Washington-headquartered group advocates a clear separation of the state and the church. Roy Speckhardt, the executive director of the group said, the “government war memorials should respect all veterans, not just those from one religious group.”
The Appeals court, in its opinion spanning 33 pages, observed that Christianity's core symbol is the Latin cross. It went on to say that this particular structure is clearly a religious one. The court pointed out that the cross is located at the center of Prince George County's busiest intersections. The Maryland administration furthermore maintains the site with thousands of dollars of government funds.
The cross honors a total of 49 residents of Prince George's County who died in combat during the First World War. This structure has a rectangular base. The words “devotion,” “courage,” “endurance,” and “valor” are inscribed at the base
For years, this PEACE CROSS has remembered the local men who died in WWI. Now it's considered unconstitutional?!? https://t.co/UliGjrDopP
— Fr Matthew Schneider (@FrMatthewLC) October 18, 2017
The court decision dealt a blow to Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. The site is owned by the latter and has spent about $117,000 to repair and maintain the structure. The American Legion was also negatively affected by the decision. The Maryland General Assembly created the commission in 1927. The commission is not giving up. Adrian R. Gardner, its general counsel, said that an appeal is being considered by the agency. When it comes to the American Legion, represented by the First Liberty Institute from Texas said their mission is “to defend and restore religious liberty across America.”