December 2018 Church & State - December 2018

Supreme Court Will Hear Dispute Over Maryland Cross

  Rob Boston

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Nov. 2 that it will hear a legal dispute over the display of a 40-foot cross on public property in Bladensburg, Md.

Known as the “Peace Cross,” the structure was erected in 1925 by the American Legion and local residents as a memorial to residents of Prince George’s County who died in World War I. The cross was originally on private property, but the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission took possession of the site in 1961 and now maintains it.

The American Humanist Association (AHA), a national group headquartered in Washington, D.C., in 2014 sued over the cross’s display on public land. The group also asserted that the cross, as a sectarian symbol, doesn’t memorialize all war dead. The organization lost at the first level of federal court but won on appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We remain confident in our legal position and look forward to presenting arguments to the Supreme Court,” Monica Miller, senior counsel for the AHA, said in a press statement.   

Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United, said the high court should uphold the 4th Circuit Court’s decision.

“Our Constitution protects the religious freedom of all Americans – religious and nonreligious alike – by ensuring that government does not endorse a particular faith or favor religion over nonreligion,” Laser said. “This immense Christian cross on public land clearly shows government promoting one religion – Christianity – above all others.”

Look for a full story about the case, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission v. American Humanist Association, in the January 2019 edition of Church & State.

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