In 1925, the Bladensburg WWI Veterans Memorial, also known as “Peace Cross,” was constructed by The American Legion. The memorial honors the 49 Bladensburg-area men who died on the battlefield representing the U.S. The plaque that contains the names of the fallen also reads “This Memorial Cross Dedicated To The Heroes of Prince George’s County Who Gave Their Lives In The Great War For The Liberty Of The World.”
Sadly, an anti-religion organization, the American Humanist Association, could not bear to see a cross honoring our fallen soldiers. In a 2014 lawsuit, they argued the cross-shaped memorial must be destroyed, moved, or changed because it is unconstitutional. They allege the Establishment Clause of the Constitution is violated due to the public ownership, maintenance, and display of the memorial.
First Liberty Institute, the nation’s largest legal organization dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom, filed a motion to intervene in this case on behalf of the American Legion.
The United States District Court of Maryland ruled in favor of the American Legion, stating that the memorial is Constitutional. However, that decision was appealed in December 2015 to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. That court reversed the lower court’s ruling, claiming that the memorial is in fact unconstitutional.
This leaves one final option. First Liberty Institute and the American Legion are currently appealing a case to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court’s decision will have major implications nationwide. If the Supreme Court either refuses to hear the case or rules in favor of the AHA, a dangerous precedent will be set. If the Supreme Court decides to let the Circuit Court’s decision stand, other memorials, like those in Arlington National Cemetery, will be targeted for destruction too.
Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute, warns, “How will we remember the fallen or teach the next generation about service and sacrifice if we start bulldozing veterans memorials and cemeteries across America?”