The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decided Wednesday that the cross-shaped Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial is unconstitutional and must come down.
The Bladensburg Memorial, located in Bladensburg Park, Md., has honored the sacrifices of 49 men from the Bladensburg area who died during World War I since 1925, but a three-judge panel ruled 2-1 in favor of the American Humanist Association and other plaintiffs that the cross-shaped monument violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The memorial is located on public land and requires thousands of dollars in public funds to maintain.
Specifically, the judges stated that the memorial “has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion.”
“The Latin cross is the core symbol of Christianity,” the judges added.
“Today’s decision sets dangerous precedent by completely ignoring history, and it threatens removal and destruction of veterans memorials across America,” Hiram Sasser, deputy chief counsel for First Liberty, said in a statement.
Although judges from the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled in November 2015 that the 40-foot memorial is constitutional, the Fourth Circuit appeals court elected to hear the case Dec. 7, 2016, after an appeal from the American Humanist Association (AHA), which first filed suit in February 2014. Since the beginning, the AHA has wanted the memorial demolished, altered or removed.
Now, First Liberty is considering appealing this latest ruling up to as high as the Supreme Court, but for now it’s being sent back to the District Court.
“The American Legion’s commitment to preserving the Bladensburg Memorial has been unwavering,” said Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty. “Their determination is appropriately illustrated by President Woodrow Wilson’s words engraved at the memorial’s base: ‘The right is more precious than the peace; we shall fight for the things we have always carried nearest to our hearts; to such a task we dedicate ourselves.’ We are exploring all of our options on behalf of the American Legion, including an appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
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