The Peace Cross WWI Memorial (Newsmax Photo File)
By Joe Schaeffer | Monday, 30 Nov 2015 10:11 PM
A federal court in Maryland ruled Monday that a World War I memorial cross on government-owned property is constitutional because it is not meant to be religious in purpose.
The cross, which stands at a busy intersection of two roads in Bladensburg, just outside of Washington, D.C., is known locally as the Peace Cross, the Baltimore Sun reports.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruling is a victory for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which is responsible for the public grounds on which the cross is situated, and the American Legion, which constructed the cross in 1925 "and continues to use the site for Memorial Day and Veterans Day" events, the Sun reports.
"We’re obviously disappointed with the ruling," said Monica Miller, senior counsel for the lead plaintiff in the complaint against the cross, the American Humanist Association, the Sun reports.
The group advocates "a progressive society where being ‘good without a god’ is an accepted way of life," the Sun states.
A former executive director of the organization spurred the filing of the complaint against the cross.
"I thought, ‘Well, that’s odd. What’s that doing there?’" Fred Edwards told the Sun last year. "That certainly gives the impression of government endorsement of religion … I just wondered how that kind of thing had continued."
The American Center for Law & Justice, which defends the rights of the religious, painted Edwards in another light.
The cross stood without issue for decades, the ACLJ says, until "[o]ne angry atheist, literally riding his bike around town, discovered" it.
"He was ‘shocked’ at the sight of the cross and ‘upset’ that the cross could possibly be displayed to honor our nation’s veterans…."
The ACLJ reports the plaintiffs complained of "unwelcome contact" with the cross as they traveled past the area.
"One of the plaintiffs actually says that he is ‘personally offended and feels excluded’ because the cross honors our nation’s veterans, the ACLJ states.
"In fact, the lawsuit states that he was ‘shocked when he first saw the cross and it upsets him whenever he passes it.’"
The ACLJ quoted the court’s ruling as to why the cross was constitutional:
“[A]lthough the construction of a cross can be for a religious purpose, in the period immediately following World War I, it could also be motivated by ‘the sea of crosses’ marking graves of American servicemen who died overseas. The Monument’s secular commemorative purpose is reinforced by the plaque, the American Legion’s seal, and the words ‘valor,’ ‘endurance,’ ‘courage,’ and ‘devotion’ written on it.
"None of these features contains any religious reference."