The Bladensburg Peace Cross Sows Discord

March 06, 2019

In the state of Maryland, a few miles from the federal capital, a cross commemorating World War I is at the heart of a controversy on the separation of Church and State.

The Federal Court of Appeals in Richmond decided in October 2017 that the 40-foot Peace Cross whose upkeep is funded by taxpayers, was “contrary to the Constitution.”

The monument commemorates the 49 soldiers of Prince George Country who died on the field of honor during World War I. Privately funded and erected in Bladensburg in 1925, this cross was purchased by the state of Maryland in 1961 and its upkeep has since then been the state’s responsibility. 

In their decision, the three judges of the Court of Appeals declared that it “violates the First Amendment by excessively entangling the government in religion.”

Indeed, the symbol of the Cross, the magistrates went on to explain, “affirms the truth of one religion and, implicitly, the falseness of others.” St; Paul could not have said it better…

“This decision (from the judges) is brooding hostility toward religion, a sort of cleansing (of the past),” said Kelly Shackelford, the president of First Liberty Institute, one of the legal groups aiding in the defense of the cross, at the time.

The defenders of the Peace Cross did not give up but filed an appeal with the US Supreme Court that is ironically located about five miles from the site of the dispute.

On February 27, 2019, the highest American legal authority heard both parties and gave to understand that it is in favor of maintaining the memorial Cross but did not voice a decision regarding the constitutionality of the presence of religious symbols in the public domain. 

The Court’s final verdict is to be handed down at the end of June 2019, but the monument’s defenders are optimistic; the peaceful shadow of the Cross should continue for many years to come to protect the soldiers who fell on the field of honor a century ago. But it will always remain a sign of contradiction.