Cross Case Before SCOTUS

Feb 26, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case tomorrow involving the Bladensburg Peace Cross, a 40-foot cross in the median on a Maryland highway honoring those who died during World War I.

The challenge to the 93-year-old cross began with The American Humanist Association which filed a 2014 lawsuit against Maryland officials, which argued that the cross “discriminates against patriotic soldiers who are not Christian.” Both lower court decisions ruled that the cross violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. 

The “Peace Cross” was built in 1925 as a tribute to local men who died during World War I. It was paid for by local families, businesses, and the American Legion. The memorial cross sits on a piece of land that has been owned since 1961 by a state commission which pays for its maintenance and upkeep. It stands at Maryland Route 450 and U.S. Route 1 in Bladensburg, Maryland, approximately five miles from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Photo Source: Religion News Service

The shape of the “Peace Cross” was selected to bear a likeness to cross-shaped grave markers used for soldiers buried in American cemeteries overseas. A plaque on the base of the cross lists the names of 49 soldiers and both faces of the cross have a circle with the symbol of the American Legion, the veterans’ organization that helped raise money to build it. Among the names listed are farmers from southern Maryland, a medical school professor from Georgetown University, and a Medal of Honor recipient who was the president of the Marine Corps baseball team. The men were killed in action, mostly in France, in the final months of the war which ended on Nov. 11, 1918. Many others were affected by the flu pandemic and died during training in the U.S.

Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief with the High Court arguing that the memorial does not violate the First Amendment Establishment Clause. The brief also urges the Court to overrule prior bad precedent known as the “Lemon Test.” The brief argues the Court should conclude that absent physical or financial coercion, there is no violation of the Establishment Clause. Liberty Counsel draws on its years of experience and the Ten Commandments cases the Supreme Court reviewed in 2005, one of which was argued by Mat Staver.

“The fact the Supreme Court decided to take up the ‘Peace Cross’ case provides hope that bad precedent on the Establishment Clause will finally be overruled,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “I am hopeful the Supreme Court will jettison bad precedent that causes so much damage and confusion to the Establishment Clause. I hope the Court adheres to the Constitution and abandons its silly judge-made rules,” said Staver. 

Mat Staver will be available following tomorrow’s argument to address the media in front of the Supreme Court.

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