Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday in a case concerning a World War I memorial on public land in Bladensburg, Maryland.
The brief, which was signed by 109 members of Congress, argued that the lower federal court incorrectly decided American Humanist Association v. Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission because not only did it fail to “recognize the history and context of the memorial,” but that the court misinterpreted the First Amendment.
“For 90 years, the families of Prince George’s County have honored America’s fallen heroes,” Cruz said in a press release. “Erected in the aftermath of World War I, the Peace Cross has stood as a testament to the courage and sacrifice of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.” (RELATED: Ted Cruz Introduces Legislation Expanding School Choice)
“The American Humanist Association convinced the Fourth Circuit to adopt a perverse interpretation of the Establishment Clause, which in no way prohibits a war memorial on public land from featuring religious imagery,” Cruz continued. “Our men and women in uniform will be better served by building more memorials to their bravery, not tearing them down.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decided in October 2017 that the 40 foot Peace Cross, constructed in 1925 to honor the town’s fallen war heroes, violated the constitution’s Establishment Clause. The court contended that because a cross is an inherent symbol of Christianity, the memorial’s location on public land unreasonably entangled the church and state.
“We must protect our national memorials to those who have given their all in support of our country and acknowledge the role that religion plays in American life,” Scalise said. “For 90 years, this cross has stood to honor 49 brave soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice to our country in World War I, and it’s incumbent upon us to make sure their memory and legacy is protected and defended at all costs.”
Scalise also expressed his pride in fighting on behalf of the appeal saying that it “honors the religious tradition of our nation, protects memorials and monuments across the country that incorporate religious symbols, and seeks to clarify court rulings that misinterpret the true meaning of the separation of church and state.”
The Supreme Court has yet to take up a case providing explicit guidance regarding religious exhibits on public land.
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