Federal Courts Determine Peace Cross Is Unconstitutional And Must Be Torn Down
A federal appeals court has ruled that the 40 ft Peace Cross, a memorial dedicated to 49 American soldiers who lost their lives during WWII, is unconstitutional and must come down.
The memorial has been standing at a three-way junction at Bladensburg Road, Baltimore Avenue, and Annapolis Road in Bladensburg, Maryland for 92 years.
The American Humanist Association first brought the lawsuit forward, in 2014, to either have the monument altered so that it no longer resembled a cross or to have it torn down completely.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, a 3 member panel, made the 2-1 decision after hearing the argument that the shape of the memorial, a cross, violated the spirit of the constitution’s Establishment Clause.
For those that are unfamiliar with it, the Establishment Clause, as it is understood today, prohibits the government from passing laws that establish a religion, and prohibit the government from taking actions that would favor one religion over another:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The Establishment Clause has been a part of the Constitution that scholars have argued over for decades.
On the one side, there are those that say that the Establishment Clause was clearly meant as a Separation of Church and State. They hold the belief that the government should not aid, endorse, or proclaim the cause of any religion in the process of conducting official government business. This interpretation is held as true by those seeking to remove the Ten Commandments from courthouse buildings, Nativity Scenes from public property, and In God We Trust from America’s currency.
On the other side are those who consider what was happening at the time that the Establishment Clause was written. Prior to the framing of the Constitution, England had created the Church of England with the king as its figurehead, granting the British Government an absolute moral authority on all things. This faction believes that the Establishment Clause was written to ensure that the United States did not set up its own religion with the government leaders making decisions as both politicians and supreme religious leaders.
Writing for the majority opinion, Judge Stephanie Thacker explained that the problem the court had with the Peace Cross was with the shape of the monument.
“The Latin cross is the core symbol of Christianity. And here, it is 40 feet tall; prominently displayed in the center of one of the busiest intersections in Prince George’s County, Maryland; and maintained with thousands of dollars in government funds.”
According to Fox News, the dissenting opinion, Chief Judge Gregory, wrote,
“This Memorial stands in witness to the VALOR, ENDURANCE, COURAGE, and DEVOTION of the forty-nine residents of Prince George’s County, Maryland ‘who lost their lives in the Great War for the liberty of the world.’
I cannot agree that a monument so conceived and dedicated and that bears such witness violates the letter or spirit of the very Constitution these heroes died to defend.”
The ruling has raised concerns that a precedent has been established that will allow anti-religious groups to target veteran memorials across the country that include religious symbols or phrases.
Once such memorial is at the Arlington National Cemetery where the 13 ft Argonne Cross Memorial stands.
Judge Thacker discussed this point in his opinion as well,
“The crosses there are much smaller than the 40-foot tall monolith at issue here,” the Washington Times reports. “And, significantly, Arlington National Cemetery displays diverse religious symbols, both as monuments and on individual headstones.”
The key message that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals seems to be sending is that religious symbols only violate the constitution when they are of a certain height and only when they
Do you think the 40 ft memorial dedicated to America’s fallen heroes should be torn down?
Source: Fox News
Source: Washington Times