SHAFAQNA| By Leila Yazdani: For more than 90 years, a huge concrete cross has dominated part of Bladensburg, Maryland, a Washington, D.C. suburb. In recent years, the American Humanist Association, in a lawsuit, claims that the World War I memorial cross in Bladensburg, Maryland, violates the Constitution because it is on public land, amounting to a government establishment of religion.
According to NPR, Nearly 100 years ago, bereaved mothers in Bladensburg, Md., decided to build a World War I memorial to honor their fallen sons. While the cross’s supporters venerate the Peace Cross as a historical tribute to the war fallen, its opponents argue it promotes Christianity and excludes non-Christians.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week in a case about a giant cross in Maryland that could affect public monuments and displays throughout the United States.
The case is ostensibly about a World War I monument in suburban Maryland that’s shaped like a four-story crucifix. What the justices will ultimately decide is how much latitude the government should get in showing favoritism toward particular faiths, aclu told. The case raises a question that has vexed the justices for decades: what is the proper place for religion in American public life??
The case will give the court an opportunity to clarify its famously confused jurisprudence on government entanglement with religion. It will also allow the justices to continue a discussion about the meaning of crosses used in war memorials, nytimes mentioned.
Courage, valor, devotion and endurance are etched into the cross
The cross at issue sits at a busy intersection in Bladensburg, Md., and commemorates 49 soldiers from Prince George’s County who died in World War I.
It was built in 1925 using contributions from local families and the American Legion. The state took over the monument and the land under it in 1961. Since then, the state has spent more than $117,000 to maintain and repair the memorial.
The words “courage,” “valor,” “devotion” and “endurance” are also etched into the cross. A plaque on the bottom lists 49 names and has a quote from US President Woodrow Wilson:
“The right is more precious than the peace; we shall fight for the things we have always carried nearest our hearts; to such a task we dedicate ourselves.”
Critics: A cross seems like an endorsement of Christianity
The American Humanist Association (AHA) filed a lawsuit against the American Legion and the Maryland–National Capital Park and Planning Commission in 2012 on behalf of local residents who oppose the cross, arguing that its placement violates the First Amendment’s prohibition of the establishment of religion. Monica Miller, the Humanist association’s senior counsel, says the cross was always intended to be a religious symbol, and its original planners wanted it to look like the cross of Calvary, described in the Bible as the place where Christ was crucified.
“I don’t think that you can say this is just some sort of passive display that people don’t take note of,” said Monica Miller, representing the American Humanist Association.
Critics, including the humanist group that brought the case, argued that a 40-foot cross in the middle of a well-trafficked intersection seems like an endorsement of Christianity.
Since 1971, the court has decided cases like this by asking three questions, known as the Lemon test: does the monument have a non-religious purpose, does it mostly advance a particular religion or does it excessively mix church and state, hyattsvillewire told.
In 2014, three local residents and the American Humanist Association, which promotes ethics and the well being of humanity without religion, filed suit against the planning commission to move or alter the monument, arguing that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”, stripes mentioned.
A federal district court determined in 2015 that the monument served a secular purpose – to honor veterans, rather than promote Christianity. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit thought differently, ruling later the cross was unconstitutional.
Supporters: The main purpose of the cross was to honor the war dead
The American Legion petitioned for the Supreme Court review. An American Legion post erected in 1925 to honor local men who died in World War I, world told.
Supporters of the Peace Cross argued that crosses have long been used in cemeteries to mark the dead and that the main purpose of the cross was to honor the war dead.
Conservative and liberal justices noted that historically, crosses have been used as symbols that weren’t necessarily steeped in Christianity, but also as memorials honoring more secular events. That could be the loophole that allows groups, including the federal government and the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, to prevail over the American Humanist Association, according to wtop.
The majority of the Supreme Court has been trying to find a way to keep the memorial standing, godtv told. The Trump administration supports the American Legion and urges the justices to take a historical approach to the case, cnn reported.
If the Supreme Court doesn’t reverse the ruling, the memorial must be removed. The Supreme Court seems poised to affirm that it can be displayed on public land.