Fourth Circuit: 90-Year-Old Cross-Shaped Monument to WW1 Dead Is Illegal


Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ordered the removal of a Bladensburg, Maryland, World War I memorial because its 40-foot tall cross shape violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, reversing a lower court ruling that would have preserved the monument and drawing impassioned reactions from litigants and observers throughout the week.

Bladensburg’s “Peace Cross” was erected by the American Legion in 1925 to honor the 49 men from Prince George’s County who fell in the Great War. In 1961, a Maryland state agency took possession of the land on which the monument sits.

Two of the three judges hearing an appeal led by atheist non-profit the American Humanist Association (AHA) agreed that the cross being allowed to stand was a violation of the “separation of church and state,” regardless of the monument’s stated purpose of honoring the war dead. Defendants, including the American Legion, argued that the cross shape and the inclusion of references to “God” in the memorial’s dedication did not amount to a government “endorsement” of Christianity.

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