The Supreme Court will decide whether a cross in the middle of a Maryland highway can stay. The cross is a World War I memorial, but some folks say it means the city of Bladensburg unfairly favors Christians.
For years, Steven C. Lowe thought a 40-foot-tall concrete cross near his home was odd. He didn’t realize it was a memorial. A plaque lists the names of 49 area residents who died in World War I, but it isn’t easily read from the road—and getting to the monument requires dashing across traffic.
In 2014, Lowe, two other area residents, and a group of atheists and agnostics from the American Humanist Association sued over the cross. They argue that the cross’ location on public land violates part of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
The group lost the first round in court. But in 2017, an appeals court ruled the cross was unconstitutional. Now, supporters are asking the Supreme Court to overturn that ruling. Justices will hear the case tomorrow.
Backers of the nearly 100-year-old cross, also called the “Peace Cross,” say if the justices rule against them it could threaten hundreds of monuments nationwide. Opponents argue that the cross should be moved to private property or changed into a nonreligious shape such as a slab.
Similar monuments have gotten mixed rulings from the high court. In 2005, the court upheld a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas state capitol but struck down Ten Commandments displays in Kentucky courthouses the same day.
Monument backers just want the Maryland war memorial left alone. Veteran Stan Shaw actually calls changing or removing the cross “a slap in a veteran’s face.”
Why do you believe people find crosses so offensive? Do you think using the cross as a memorial violates the U.S. Constitution?
(Visitors walk around the Maryland Peace Cross dedicated to World War I soldiers in Bladensburg, Md. AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)