Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Court Rejects Establishment Clause Challenge To Bladensburg Cross

In American Humanist Association v. Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, (D MD, Nov. 30, 2015), a Maryland federal district court rejected an Establishment Clause challenge to a 40-foot tall Veteran's Memorial in the shape of a cross. The so-called Bladensburg Cross was erected in 1925 by the American Legion at the intersection of two highways. The original ownership of the land on which it sits was unclear, but the land was eventually transferred to the state.  As Veterans Memorial Park, it is now also surrounded by other monuments. The court concluded that the cross does not have the effect of endorsing religion:
the predominant and nearly exclusive use of the Monument has been for annual commemorative events held on Memorial Day and Veterans Day....  In light of this history and context, of which a reasonable observer would be aware, the Monument "evokes far more than religion. It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles...." The evocation of foreign graves is particularly relevant here because, unlike crosses challenged in other cases, the Monument explicitly memorializes forty-nine servicemen who died in Europe during World War I, and the "cross developed into a central symbol of the American overseas cemetery" during and following World War I....
The Baltimore Sun reports on the decision.