Religious Minorities

The Refurbished Bladensburg Cross Still Doesn’t Represent Non-Christians

  Rob Boston

A towering cross on public land in Bladensburg, Md., has been refurbished and was rededicated on Veterans Day, but it remains a constitutional problem.

As you might recall, the 40-foot-tall cross was the subject of a legal challenge that reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019 after the American Humanist Association sued over the presence of the religious symbol on land owned by the state government. Unfortunately, the high court ruled that this cross, even though it’s the preeminent symbol of the Christian faith, wasn’t necessarily religious and could remain.

The cross was built in 1925 to memorialize residents of Prince George’s County who died during World War I. But it no longer serves just that function: In 1985, government officials rededicated the cross as a memorial to honor local veterans of all wars.

But the Bladensburg Cross can never do that. It simply can’t represent non-Christians. Thus, it memorializes some veterans – those who happen to be Christians.

The cross had fallen into disrepair and was literally crumbling. When I visited the site in November of 2018, I was shocked by the state it was in. The cross was buttressed with struts and had a cap on top to keep out water. The small park surrounding it was overgrown with weeds and strewn with trash. It seems that some people got excited about the cross only after it became the subject of litigation. Before that, they were happy to let it decay.

The cross could have been sold to a private entity or moved off public property – maybe a private party would have taken better care of it. But now that it seems fated to remain on land owned by the government, let’s be honest about what it is: The Bladensburg Cross is a giant symbol of the Christian faith that memorializes Christians. It excludes everyone else who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this nation.

Photo: The Bladensburg Cross in 2018

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