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Current Page: Politics | Tuesday, December 01, 2015
Large Cross on Maryland Public Property Has 'Legitimately Secular Purpose,' Federal Court Rules

Large Cross on Maryland Public Property Has 'Legitimately Secular Purpose,' Federal Court Rules

A veterans memorial located in Bladensburg, Maryland. | (Photo: Liberty Institute)

AMarylandveteransmemorialwithalargecrossisconstitutional,afederalcourtruled.

U.S.DistrictJudgeDeborahK.ChasanowruledMondaythattheBladensburgWorldWarIVeteransMemorialcouldincludeaforty-foottallLatincross.

Inherdecision,ChasanowconcludedthattheBladensburgcrosswasconstitutionalsinceitpassedthelegalprecedentofnothavinganexclusivelyreligiouspurpose.

"AlthoughtheLatincrossisundeniablyareligioussymbol…Othercourtshaverecognizedthatdisplayingacrosstohonorfallensoldiersisalegitimatelysecularpurpose,anddoesnotalwayspromoteareligiousmessage,"wroteJudgeChasanow.

A 40-foot tall cross on government property in Bladensburg, Maryland. | (Photo: American Humanist Association)

"EventhepurposeoftheprivatecitizenswhowerebehindtheMonument'sconstruction90yearsagowasapredominantlysecularone…TheMonument'sgroundbreakingwasapredominantlysecularaffairthatalsoincludedthegroundbreakingoftheNationalDefenseHighway."

RogerByron,leadattorneyonthecasefortheconservativelawfirmtheLibertyInstitute,toldTheChristianPostthathewaspleasedwiththeruling.

"Thedecisionprotectsnotonlythishistoricmemorial,italsohelpsensurethatallthenation'sveteransmemorialswillbeprotected,"saidByron.

"Yesterday'srulinggrantedourmotionandfoundtheMemorialwellwithintheboundsoftheFirstAmendment."

LocatedattheintersectionofMarylandRoute450andU.S.Route1,theBladensburgcrosswasaprojectoftheAmericanLegionthatwascompletedin1925.

In2012,theAmericanHumanistAssociationsentalettertotheMarylandNationalParkandPlanningCommissiondemandingthatthecrossberemoved.

InFebruary2014,theAHAfiledalawsuitagainstthePlanningCommissiononbehalfoftwomemberswholivedintheareaandathirdpersonfromBeltsville.

"Thisactionchallengestheconstitutionalityofthedefendant'sownership,maintenanceandprominentdisplayonpublicpropertyofamassiveChristiancross(the'Bladensburgcross')asaviolationoftheEstablishmentClauseoftheFirstAmendmentoftheU.S.Constitution,asappliedtoMarylandbytheFourteenthAmendment,"readthesuit.

"Theplaintiffsseekinjunctiveanddeclaratoryreliefandnominaldamagesunder42U.S.C.§1983againstthedefendanttoredressthisEstablishmentClauseviolation,togetherwithrecoveryofattorney'sfeesandcostsunder42U.S.C.§1988(b)."

MonicaMiller,spokespersonfortheAHA,toldCPthatherorganizationwas"stillevaluatingthedecision"andthereforewasunsureastowhetherornottheywouldappeal.

"Wearedisappointedwiththedecision,asitfailstorecognizethestigmatizingandalienatingeffectthegovernment'senormousLatincrosshasonnon-Christianservicemembersandveterans,"saidMiller.

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