On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to take up The American Legion v. American Humanist Association and an associated case, both of which involve a World War I memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland, which the American Humanist Association wishes to uproot and destroy because it is in the shape of a cross.
“One group’s agenda shouldn’t diminish the sacrifice made by America’s veterans and their families. The Supreme Court was right to take up this case so that it has the opportunity to affirm that the offended feelings of a passer-by does not amount to a constitutional crisis. A passive monument like the Bladensburg Cross, which acknowledges our veterans and our nation’s religious heritage, is not an establishment of religion,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel David Cortman.
In July, Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court in the two cases on behalf of retired Major General Patrick Brady, a Medal of Honor recipient and one of the most decorated soldiers in American history, and six veterans groups representing thousands of living veterans.
“There are some who want to erase the memory of the service and sacrifice of these 49 fallen servicemen of Prince George’s County,” said Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty. “If this monument is bulldozed to the ground, it’s only a matter of time before the wrecking ball turns on Arlington National Cemetery and the thousands of memorials like this one across the country.”
Michael Carvin, lead counsel for The American Legion, partner at Jones Day and First Liberty network attorney, said, “For nearly 100 years the memorial has stood to honor these 49 sons of Prince George’s County who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. The Supreme Court should not allow their memory to be bulldozed.”
The Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial is a cross-shaped memorial erected in 1925 by local Gold-Star mothers and a local post of The American Legion to honor 49 Prince George’s County men who gave their lives while serving in WWI. The Gold-Star mothers who designed the memorial in 1919 chose a cross shape to recall the cross-shaped grave markers standing over the countless American graves on the Western Front of that war. One mother referred to the memorial as her son’s “grave stone.”
In 2015, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled the memorial was constitutional, citing the use of crosses to mark the graves of fallen American servicemen overseas. Later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the District Court’s decision, declaring the cross shape of the memorial violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.