Appeals Court Rules Bladensburg Peace Cross Unconstitutional

Heather Curtis
WMAL.com

WASHINGTON (WMAL) – A 40-foot tall cross in Bladensburg, Maryland memorializing local men killed in World War I may have to come down. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled Wednesday the cross memorial violates the Constitutional right to a separation of church and state because it is a religious symbol on public land.

“To have a 40 foot cross welcoming everyone who comes into town obviously has the effect that this community is endorsing Christianity,” said David Niose, the legal director for the American Humanist Association, which brought the suit.

Niose said the court also found the cross caused an excessive entanglement between government and religion because thousands of dollars in public money have been spent maintaining the cross.

“This endangers veterans memorials everywhere,” said Kelly Shackelford, the president of First Liberty Institute, which is the law firm representing the veterans at the American Legion who are trying to save the Peace Cross.

He said the ruling could open the door for lawsuits involving many veterans memorials on public land, including the Argonne Cross in Arlington National Cemetery.

Veterans plan to fight the ruling, taking it to the Supreme Court if necessary according to Shackelford.

The federal court sent the case back to the District Court in Baltimore. The later court is charged with deciding what to do to remedy the problem.

Niose said his group would not oppose efforts to move the Peace Cross to private land, like that belonging to a church.

Copyright 2017 by WMAL.com. All Rights Reserved. (Photo: Town of Bladensburg )

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