A memorial erected almost a millennia ago, to honor the 49 residents of Bladensburg, MD, that gave their lives for their country in World War I has been ordered to be torn down. Erected by the towns American Legion, the 40-foot-tall symbol of courage and loss became known as the “Peace Cross.”
The American Humanist Association, whose motto states that they believe in “being good without a god,’, filed a lawsuit in 2014 demanding that the memorial be either demolished, altered or removed.
The suit itself alleged that the cross-shaped memorial is in their opinion unconstitutional. The reasoning for this unconstitutionality is that the cross itself carries "an inherently religious message and creates the unmistakable appearance of honoring only Christian servicemen."
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed on Wednesday ruled in favor of the lawsuit, ordering that the memorial had to be torn down. The only reason being that the Bladensburg Memorial is shaped like a cross.
In a statement issued by the court, their reasoning for their decision is based about church and state. They felt the memorial ventured heavily into territory that entangled the government in religion. And as a result, with the cross being the "core symbol of Christianity," its existence "breaches" that wall that stands between church and state.
However, not all those in the court were in agreement with the ruling. Chief Judge Gregory penned a separate opinion stating that he felt the memorial stands as an example of the valor, endurance, courage, and devotion of forty-nine residents of Prince George's County, Maryland. Residents "who lost their lives in the Great War for the liberty of the world."
He went on to state that he could agree that a monument that was solely conceived and dedicated to bear witness to such brave and selfless actions could in any manner violate the letter, or spirit, of the very Constitution that the names individuals died to defend.
Hiram Sasser, an attorney with First Liberty Institute, stated, "Today's decision sets a dangerous precedent by completely ignoring history, and it threatens removal and destruction of veterans memorials across America."
Michael Caven, an attorney with Jones Day, added, "This memorial has stood in honor to local veterans for almost 100 years and is lawful under the First Amendment. To remove it would be a tremendous dishonor to the local men who gave their lives during The Great War."
So, what’s the verdict—you decide.
Was the Circuit Court just in their ruling to have the “Peace Cross” torn down?