Crusade Against Cross Honoring Vets Could Go to Supreme Court

An appeals court ruling against a war memorial cross could lead to the next big religious liberties case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bishop Council Nedd II, a co-chairman of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network says:

The Bladensburg Peace Cross should be allowed to stand where it has stood since it was erected in 1925.

This growing trend in America to rewrite history has gone too far already, and I fear where this is headed.  It is not in the American tradition to destroy, deface and demolish monuments.  That is something that happens in dictatorial countries when leaders are toppled.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in a divided ruling, said the 40-foot Latin cross that stands at a suburban Maryland intersection “excessively entangles” the government with religion and is thus unconstitutional.  It overturned a lower court’s ruling said the nearly century-old landmark – inscribed with the words “endurance,” “valor,” “courage” and “devotion” – was not primarily religious and almost always used in a manner that marked government rather than religious observances.

Yet the majority of judges on the 4th Circuit determined that the Bladensburg Cross – dedicated to local men who died in the First World War – unlawfully represents “the core symbol of Christianity” and is “prominently displayed in the center of on one of the busiest intersections in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and maintained with thousands of dollars in government funds.”  Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory, in his dissent, countered: “In the majority’s view, the memorial is unconstitutional based predominantly on the size of the cross, and neither its secular features nor history could overcome the presumption.  But such a conclusion is contrary to our constitutional directive.”

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan called the decision “outrageous” and said “all options, legal or otherwise, are being considered” to keep the cross in place.  That could include an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The American Humanist Association (AHA) originally filed the lawsuit against the Peace Cross.  AHA Senior Counsel Monica Miller wrote in 2014 that the group was seeking “to eliminate this stigmatic message [of the cross] to non-adherents of Christianity.  It urges the government to erect an inclusive monument that will honor all fallen soldiers, regardless of their faith.”  Jeremy Dys, an attorney for the First Liberty Institute, the group that defended the Peace Cross, remarked after the ruling: “I think it’s important that we honor veterans the way that veterans choose to honor themselves.”

The ruling, if allowed to stand, could have an impact on other monuments in places such as national cemeteries.  It could also help to reshape American society, where memorials such as the Bladensburg Peace Cross have stood without offending residents for generations.  Nedd, who grew up in the area where the cross stands, has fond memories of it and concerns about what the ruling portends for the future:

What’s next?  Will there be a movement to tear faces off Mount Rushmore, or rename national parks?

The Peace Cross is different.  It honors our veterans.  And it means a lot of good things to a lot of people.  For me, it was an integral part of my childhood.  It was always a special day if my family found ourselves in that part of town and my father would take us to see the “big cross.”

What is lost on the secularist and the revisionist historians is that – like it or not – America was founded as a Christian nation.  We should not apologize for that, or hide from that fact.

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.