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Supreme Court Upholds War Memorial Cross

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Supreme Court Upholds War Memorial Cross

Supreme Court Upholds War Memorial Cross
June 21
19:12 2019

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals was dealt a decisive 7-2 rebuke from the Supreme Court on Thursday, turning back a constitutional challenge regarding a cross-shaped war memorial in Maryland.

The high-court found that the monument does not violate the First Amendment.

A three judge panel on the 4th Circuit had concluded that the Peace Cross which had been erected just after World War I at the Maryland location somehow endorsed Christianity. The Judges surmised that the so-called “reasonable observer” test provides that government displays which are perceived to endorse or disparage a particular religion violate the First Amendment.

Appeals Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote for the majority concluding, “One simply cannot ignore the fact that for thousands of years the Latin cross has represented Christianity.”

Adding, “Even in the memorial context, a Latin cross serves not simply as a generic symbol of death, but rather a Christian symbol of the death of Jesus Christ.”

However dissenting Judge Paul Niemeyer warned that the majority decision imperils similar monuments within the 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction, including those at Arlington National Cemetery.

The debate arose in 2014, when three Maryland residents decided that after almost 100 years the war monument honoring the war dead somehow became an offensive symbol and with the help of the atheist group American Humanist Association (AHA), decided to sue the parks commission, because the Peace Cross Monument was now located on public land, because back in 1961 the American Legion ceded control of the private property site to the Maryland state parks commission.

Both the Legion and the Maryland state parks commission defended the war memorial citing that the monument does not draw and explicit connection to Christianity, but rather as a European battle cemetery, the ones seen on the continent throughout France, England, Germany, etc, etc, where crosses are regularly used as headstones.

Moreover, the Legion argued that within the Peace Cross Memorial Monument, other secular symbols are also included such as the seal of the Legion.

The veterans group went even further in their defense of the memorial saying the courts should permit sectarian displays like the Peace Cross provided they do not proselytize or coerce onlookers into religious observance.

Moreover, the 49 names inscribed on the pedestal of the monument including the name of Henry Hulbert, a recipient of the Medal of Honor, would defame forever their memory and what they accomplished during those dark days of the “Great War.”

On Thursday the Supreme Court rejected the challenge by the three Maryland individuals along with the American Humanist Association, and ruled in favor of the 40-foot WWI memorial located in Bladensburg, Maryland, with a 7-2 decision in favor of preserving the historic war memorial for generations to come. 

Justice Samuel Alito delivered the opinion for the 7-Justices finding in favor of the memorial.

“After the First World War, the picture of row after row of plain white crosses marking the overseas graves of soldiers who had lost their lives in that horrible conflict was emblazoned on the minds of Americans at home, and the adoption of the cross as the Bladensburg memorial must be viewed in that historical context,” Alito wrote.

The two dissenters Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, of course, disagreed with the majority opinion.

Michael Carvin of Jones Day, who represented the Legion alongside the First Liberty Institute said, “We are grateful for this historic victory for the First Amendment. This decision simply affirms the historical understanding of the First Amendment that allows government to acknowledge the value and importance of religion.”

Conservative court-watchers hope that this historic ruling by the Supreme Court would bring some basic order to the confused and at times contentious debates regarding religion in public life.

Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network said,  “Today’s Supreme Court decision to stop militant atheists from tearing down the historic ‘Peace Cross’ memorial is a major win for religious liberty, although it didn’t go as far as several conservative judges wanted to overrule muddled and discredited First Amendment precedents.”

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4 Comments

  1. Joe
    Joe June 24, 18:37

    What’s next for these militants. Will they want to remove all the crosses in Arlington cemetery? Idiots!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Julz
    Julz June 25, 00:44

    “Three Maryland individual” seems like suffering from too much of free time..or a brain decay..

    Reply to this comment

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