A decision by federal judges at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month to order the removal of a memorial cross in Maryland has caused numerous religious and veteran advocates to cry foul.
The court ruled that a Peace Cross honoring WWI veterans was in violation of the U.S. Constitution and can no longer be maintained or located on public-owned land.
Taking a stand with the American Legion, which sponsored the construction of the 40-foot-high Bladensburg Cross more than 90-years ago, is our own Martin Mawyer.
Mawyer said he is determined to call attention to the injustice and inappropriateness of the court’s decision – and to shake the conscience of the nation toward a better understanding of what religious liberty truly means in America.
“It is obvious to me that this case is not about one cross,” Mawyer said. “This is about ALL crosses located in public cemeteries. It’s about singling out the Christian faith for banishment on the graves of our fallen soldiers.”
He added that this case will have a direct impact on veterans across the land.
“This will likely spread to Arlington National Cemetery at some point,” Mawyer said. “If this case is upheld, all Christian symbology at government funded cemeteries will be considered unconstitutional.”
According to Mawyer, the case is headed to the Supreme Court, but whether the justices will agree to hear it remains uncertain.
“We cannot know for sure whether it will be heard there. If not, it will be a disaster for the crosses at Arlington National Cemetery.”
“Usually, cases go to the Supreme Court because there are competing decisions amongst other courts related to the issue,” Mawyer said. “This is the only case I’m aware of that has ordered a cross to be removed that honors dead soldiers.”
He added that an outcry from veterans and Christians across the nation could help get this case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case against the Bladensburg cross began in 2014 following the objections of several anti-Christian groups that included the American Humanist Association and the Council on Islamic American Relations.
The initial federal court ruling went against their effort, with Judge Deborah Chasanow characterizing the claim as nonsensical in November, 2015.
The case went on appeal. In October of last year, a three-judge panel of the fourth circuit ruled 2-1 to reverse Chasenow, and ruled that the cross and memorial should be demolished, moved elsewhere or altered to a non-sectarian, non-symbolic form.
The decision on March 1 was not a re-hearing of arguments, but a decision based on submitted material in addition to court records to reconsider the case. But the appellate court rejected the effort by a vote of 8-6.
Lawyers for First Liberty, a law firm defending the cross, indicated they are appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The cross was erected in 1925 by a local post of The American Legion. At the time it was constructed the land was privately owned.
Eventually the county acquired the land in order to coordinate safe roadway upgrades in a way that would not interfere with the memorial, leaving it situated in a constructed roadway median.
The memorial structure includes the names of 49 Prince Georges County, Maryland veterans who gave their lives during World War I.