Humanists Call For Removal of 40-Ft. Cross-Shaped Soldier’s Memorial

By Jon Street | September 20, 2012 | 5:53pm EDT

( – A veteran’s memorial in the form of a “peace cross” in Bladensburg, Md., has come under criticism by the American Humanist Association, which has said the memorial is a “religious symbol” on public land and that the government “should not be in the business of promoting religion.”

“This cross amounts to an unconstitutional government endorsement of Christianity on public land. It is an exclusively Christian symbol that does not represent the sacrifice of non-Christian soldiers. Its prominent presence on public land leaves any observer with the notion that Christianity is exclusively favored and promoted by the government, said Bill Burgess, director of the AHA Legal Center.

AHA sent a letter to the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission on Aug. 22. The letter cited the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment in its challenge that “the Constitution mandates that the government remain secular, rather than affiliate itself with religious beliefs or institutions.”

But Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for Liberty Institute, responded to AHA’s challenge on Sept. 19.

"Surely, the Humanists are bluffing. I doubt very seriously this group will even file a lawsuit to disturb the Bladensburg Peace Cross, which has stood for nearly a century as a symbol of the selfless sacrifice and service of the 49 soldiers who paid the ultimate price for the freedom of others during World War I," Sasser said.

“To tear down the memorial at this point, after it’s been there for nearly a century, is spitting in the eye of the veterans,” Sasser added. “To do that would be a ruling that all the World War I memorials in this country in the shape of a cross would have to be torn down.”

The American Legion, which donated and later dedicated the 40 ft. marble and cement cross on July 13, 1925, to the 49 World War I soldiers of Prince George’s County, said in a statement, “the removal of this historic veterans memorial…would dishonor the WWI veterans who fought and died for our nation. We will do what we can to ensure that the Memorial Cross remains where it has stood for decades."

In responding to the privately-funded monument: “The fact that the Bladensburg Cross may have been initially financed and donated by the local American Legion post is likewise of no legal significance. The Supreme Court has made clear that “[j]ust as government-commissioned and government-financed monuments speak for the government, so do privately financed and donated monuments that the government accepts and displays to the public on government land.”

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