The Bladensburg Peace Cross
The Bladensburg Peace Cross was the subject of an ongoing legal battle that went to the country’s highest court. The Supreme Court put the argument on whether the cross can stay to rest earlier this month.

Maryland’s century-old Bladensburg Peace Cross war memorial will live to stand another day.

The Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 decision that a 40-foot concrete cross is not religious in nature. Rather, the cross is a memorial and thus can continue receiving public funds- despite its obvious Christian symbolism. The Bladensburg Cross, sitting on public lands in a traffic circle in a Washington suburb, was originally erected in 1925. The cross served as a memorial to 49 local World War I veterans who died overseas.

The American Humanist Association (AHA) and the American Legion were locked in a lengthy legal battle to have the cross taken down. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito argued that would in itself be religiously charged.

“For nearly a century, the Bladensburg Cross has expressed the community’s grief at the loss of the young men who perished, its thanks for their sacrifice, and its dedication to the ideals for which they fought. It has become a prominent community landmark, and its removal or radical alteration at this date would be seen by many not as a neutral act but as the manifestation of ‘a hostility toward religion that has no place in our Establishment Clause traditions.’”

Bladensburg Peace Cross History

The cross itself has an interesting history. The American Legion commissioned the cross in 1919 as a memorial for the servicemen from the Bladensburg area that perished overseas in the first World War. At the time of its erection, the cross was on private grounds. Architect John Joseph Earley based the design on the scores of simple cross gravemarkers for fallen soldiers in Europe.

However, the private lands the cross stands on became public land in 1961 – making the Peace Cross a religious symbol on public land. The state has since maintained the cross and grounds, and Maryland taxpayers have paid for the regular maintenance and upkeep of the cross.

Majority Rule

The 7-2 majority cited the structure’s historical nature in their legal ruling. They mentioned how the Latin cross was commonly associated with World War I, and how the U.S. used it in similar military honors, including the Distinguished Service Cross in 1918 and the Navy Cross in 1919. The decision reversed the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that decreed the cross unconstitutional.

The Court also noted that Christian crosses often appear in contexts that are “indisputably secular,” including trademarks for Blue Cross Blue Shield and Bayer Group. It went on to make a distinction between preserving established monuments with religious symbols and erecting new ones. “Familiarity itself can become a reason for preservation. The passage of time gives rise to a strong presumption of constitutionality.”

Even the American Humanist Association recognized that certain cross memorials, like those that line Arlington National Cemetery, may be permissible when associated with individual soldiers. The Supreme Court argued memorials and gravestones serve the same purpose for many grieving families, and that this particular memorial did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, despite the fact that taxpayers fund the upkeep.

“The Religion Clauses of the Constitution aim to foster a society in which people of all beliefs can live together harmoniously, and the presence of the Bladensburg Cross on the land where it has stood for so many years is fully consistent with that aim.”

Ginsburg’s Dissent

In the dissenting arguments, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg challenged the notion that serving as a war memorial could make a cross secular. “Just as a Star of David is not suitable to honor Christians who died serving their country, so a cross is not suitable to honor those of other faiths who died defending their nation,” she wrote in a dissenting opinion. Having the Peace Cross on a public highway “elevates Christianity over other faiths, and religion over nonreligion,” she argued.

Ginsburg went on: “As I see it, when a cross is displayed on public property, the government may be presumed to endorse its religious content. The venue is surely associated with the State; the symbol and its meaning are just as surely associated exclusively with Christianity.” Ginsburg says in her argument that displaying a cross on public property is exclusionary to the 30% of Americans who do not subscribe to the Christian faith.

The issue seems settled in the highest court in the land– but the court of public opinion is another beast entirely. And, undoubtedly, there will be future challenges to religious symbols on public grounds. What do you think? Do the unique history and memorializing nature of the Bladensburg Cross make it more than a religious symbol? Or does a nation built on the separation of church and state have a duty to remove religious symbols from public grounds regardless of their history?

72 comments

  1. Lionheart says:

    I guess it stays for the time being!

    🦁❤️

    1. Don says:

      liberalism is a mental disorder. The cross has every right to say everyone has a right to have a cross on their property and public land! This is more hate from the left against Christians and Jews like à

      1. Lemon says:

        I’ll be sure to stick a pentagram on your tombstone

        1. Lionheart says:

          It’s good that pentagrams are accepted in all cemetaries. Even the military accepts them now.

          🦁♥️

      2. Lionheart says:

        I’ll go further and say that believing, talking, and dedicating ones life to an imaginary deity is also a mental disorder.

        🦁♥️

        1. oldaabill says:

          It only matters if it’s true. The only way to know is to be dead. If you are correct, you will never know you were correct. The only way you will find out the truth, is if you are wrong!

          1. Lionheart says:

            Yes, the only way to knowing if there is a life after death is when we’re gone. I totally agree.

            I’ll try and come back and let you all know after I’m dead. If I don’t come back, take it that there isn’t anything else, and just try and have a good life full of fun and love.

            🦁❤️

          2. Norma Battes says:

            ” If I don’t come back, take it that there isn’t anything else… ”

            Or that something has you and won’t let you go. For eternity.

            Best Wishes.

          3. kimberly says:

            Lion…………..there’s no “life after death” with regards to consciousness in death. Dead is dead until the resurrection. That’s easy to prove. Think about whether you had consciousness prior to birth. Nada…and for an eternity prior to your birth. Some might claim to have been previously born a witch (or a turtle, etc.) before their current existence but that is foolishness as you and I know from our own experience of non-existence prior to our birth.

          4. Lionheart says:

            Thank you Kim and Norma for your thoughts.

            Kim you always write as though you knows things as an absolute certainty, which of course you don’t.

            Norma, one day, just like me and Kim, you will know for sure if you are right or wrong with your belief structure, and that will be when we die. I keep an open mind because for all I know Lord Krishna, or Vishnu could be the real god, and that’s only if a god exists at all.

            🦁❤️

          5. kimberly says:

            Lion…are you now saying you’re an agnostic instead of an atheist? When we die, we go into the grave. It is at the resurrection we’ll find out what reality is and that isn’t until long after Jesus returns. Not before.

          6. Lionheart says:

            Don’t you just hate titles? I’m a human being having a human experience. If you really need a name I’m more of a free thinking secular humanist, but what’s in a name?

            The beauty of being a free thinker is that I’m open to everything and anything. I’m not closed minded, which unfortunately is what religion does to most people.

            I am ready to leave this life and be open to whatever is on the other side. If there is an other side.

            If there is an other side, there are going to be some very angry closed minded people/spirits that are going to be in for a huge shock.

            🦁❤️

      3. Carl Elfstrom says:

        A cross is not necessarily a Christian symbol, unless it has a figurine of Jesus attached to it. Crosses are used by many non-Christians as spiritual symbols, and have been since long before the birth of Christ. I’ve read, and heard that the mere shape evokes power, but haven’t had any first hand experience with that, yet I sometimes wear one around my neck, and get more smiles in public when I do. Only people with Christian or Jewish roots would be nay sayers, for such a cross wouldn’t mean anything religious to anyone else.

        1. Galin Pheylan says:

          Pagan, Witch, Male, and I agree.

        2. Norma Battes says:

          Carl Elfstrom
          June 26, 2019 at 6:32 pm
          ” Only people with Christian or Jewish roots would be nay sayers… ”

          When you say “nay sayers”, I assume you mean those that don’t want it removed. As in, don’t take the cross down. If so, as I read the article those opposed to it’s removal do so on the grounds it is a war memorial and not a religious symbol. Thus naysayers could be Christian or no, religious and not.
          Would the government agencies tasked with being responsible for it be willing to sell/lease the land it sits on to a private entity and thus making the point of public land moot?

      4. Janis Sommers says:

        separation of church and state. no cross on public lands

        1. Kyle says:

          Here’s a question how did the land become public land

      5. Norma Battes says:

        For that you may disagree with isn’t all a liberal hate disorder.

        “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

        ― Friedrich W. Nietzsche

      6. Norma Battes says:

        Don
        June 25, 2019 at 7:35 am
        ” This is more hate from the left… ”

        That which you may disagree with isn’t all simply a liberal hate disorder.

        “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

        ― Friedrich W. Nietzsche

      7. Nick says:

        On that sentiment you are not entirely correct. I am an extreme liberal and I agree with the decision of the high court. There are many who believe that this elevates christianity above other faiths but I believe that any symbol chosen for a memorial needs to be accepted for what it is and that is a memorial, further this cross was erected on private land and then that land became public lands and therefore the public’s responsibility is to maintain this memorial or pay to have it moved as well as for future maintenance. There are far more important issues facing this country today than this. My personal opinion is that the cry babies that want every thing to be p.c. and destroy these reminders of our past are the ones who will be guilty of forgetting history. And those who fail to remember history are DOOMED to repeat it.

        1. Kim says:

          Any extremophile is unbalanced. If this doesn’t git yer goat something else will. So you can get off the “ooo look at me” wagon. It doesn’t fool anybody.

          1. Lionheart says:

            You are of course quite right Kim, and there’s nothing more extreme than telling people, especially children, that they were born in sin and will be going to a burning hell upon their judgement from a mythical god, unless they take upon themselves the name of someone that possibly didn’t exist. Even if he did exist it’s still hugely extreme and therefore those who make those dictates are clearly unbalanced as you correctly suggest.

            Don’t you just hate extremophiles Kim?

            🦁❤️

          2. kimberly says:

            silly Lion….when you say “born in sin and will be going to a burning hell upon their judgement from a mythical god, unless they take upon themselves the name of someone that possibly didn’t exist. ” it just means you’ve been told lies. The Bible doesn’t say we are “born in sin” and it doesn’t describe eternal torment in hell and it doesn’t say that to be “saved” one must “accept Jesus” or whatever form that takes. If you believe that is what the Bible says then you’ve taken it upon yourself to define that “mythical god” and it is not the God of the Bible.

          3. Lionheart says:

            I am merely quoting what many Christians believe, and you know it.

            I don’t believe it, and I have no reason to believe you and your beliefs.

            I believe you to be extremely misguided, but if it helps you to get through your life, I’m happy for you. Life is short, and getting shorter each day.

            🦁❤️

          4. Lori says:

            Lionheart, just let it go. There’s something wrong and no one can fix it.

          5. Lionheart says:

            @Lori: 👍

    2. Joseph Guinan says:

      As a historical monument I have no problem with it staying but I think in future religious symbols should not be allowed unless we provide equal access to all religious groups …this is a democracy w equal rights for all

      1. Galin Pheylan says:

        Also, agree.

      2. Norma Battes says:

        Joseph Guinan
        July 3, 2019 at 4:15 am
        ” …equal access to all religious groups… ”
        Should we then remove all markers at Arlington Cemetery? Or say abolish December 25th as an established “religious” holiday on future calendars? I believe there is significant over-interpretation of “separation of church and state.” As most scholars read the Constitution and it’s Amendments, is that Government will not establish a particular religion over another as a religion of the State. Nor are they to outlaw any particular, or all, religious beliefs. With that, laws cannot be made or utilized based on beliefs of a religious doctrine, i.e. “Guilty/innocent because God said so.” And then, we are free to have our faiths as we choose based on our established rights as free men(women).
        Thus to not allow symbols would go against both tenets of separation of church and state.

    3. Randy C Hamilton says:

      Violates the 1st amendment. Just like ‘In God We Trust” on money, “Under God” inserted in the Pledge of allegiance in the 1950s, and bible verses on courtroom walls. Can NOBODY understand the 1st amendment?????????

      1. Cyril says:

        It was wrong for them to put it up originally, but now it is a historical object representing men who died four our nation and should be maintained as such if the people of that city want it.

        They should vote on keeping it or replacing it with a more appropriate symbol, such as a plinth.

    4. Reveend Joe says:

      There is no logical reason to have the cross removed. It does not ‘disrespect’ any religion. If “someone” has a problem with it, maybe they should take a different route so they don’t have to look at it.

  2. kimberly says:

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg accused President Lincoln of grabbing her ass in 1867. Show me even one of those 49 world war I veterans who wasn’t “Christian”. Its highly doubtful there were any non-Christians among that lot. How foolish to concentrate on such things when there is no benefit to the country regardless of the outcome.

    1. Don says:

      Ginsburg is a hack she has no reason or right to be on the supreme Court also she died is being kept alive by batteries

      1. Lionheart says:

        Please can someone remove the batteries from AOC, Diden, Sanders & Pelosi (batteries on them are almost dead anyway), Ilhan, et al.

        🦁♥️

        1. Lionheart says:

          I meant of course Biden!

        2. Galin Pheylan says:

          Democrats, especially Progressives, will rise again! Get over it !

      2. Galin Pheylan says:

        Ginsburg is one of the last sanest voices on the Supreme Court.

    2. Carl Elfstrom says:

      Kimberly, I can’t imagine why you think any of those 49 world war 1 soldiers were Christians. Only Christians think this country is by far mostly comprised of Christians. A lot of people claim to be Christian just to fit in. I did volunteer work at a Catholic soup kitchen for a couple of years, and a year or more at a Baptist Church free food giveaway. Do you think I told any of them I was Wiccan? I was praising the lord with the rest of them! If you’ll come down to Galveston we can have seances and ask each and every one of those soldiers what religion they belonged to, or believed in.

      1. Kim says:

        I was a huge fan of Buffy and Willow in the day. And I cried when Tara was killed. But really enjoyed Willow turning into a dark Wicca. However, I know fantasy from reality. Back in ww1 day most Americans were christian and those who weren’t didn’t flaunt it. It’s reality dear.

        1. Lionheart says:

          Here is your failing Kim. How can you know fantasy from reality if you believe in a god that no one knows for sure exists, apart from those who want a god to exist due to their concept of faith, and those who want to believe in a book written by men under the precept they were writing for god, presumably because their god cannot write his own account?

          🦁❤️

          1. kimberly says:

            The Bible is an accurate record of God’s interaction with humanity. He spoke from the mountain in a voice so loud it terrified his people. He wrote on tablets of stone. You really are a lame atheist dear. Why don’t you watch Buffy? Its totally awesome.

          2. Lionheart says:

            Wrong! The Bible is not an accurate record Kim. You are so very easily deceived, which actually amazes me, but if Buffy & Willow can make you cry, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.

            🦁❤️

          3. Carl Elfstrom says:

            Moses spent plenty of time alone in those mountains to carve those tablets all by himself. And any able bodied, literate adult with a healthy, moral conscience could have done the same.

          4. kimberly says:

            Buffy and Willow were lesbo witches. cute story by Josh Whedon. Has a cult following. He must be a very special perv to have thought that up. Good story though.

            If you think the Bible is a historical text then you’re right. That isn’t its intent. It is a book of accusation against humanity. From that perspective, it is more than accurate. Not a history book or an operations manual for humans.

          5. kimberly says:

            Carl…you’re not facing reality. Moses came down from the mountain glowing like a neon sign. It scared the sh*t out of the people. The biblical record is accurate. You simply don’t believe it without any reason other than you don’t like what was written.

          6. Joseph Guinan says:

            Depends on your definition of God……….the real God (Consciousness not a person) can only be found and experienced by thinking and acting like you believe (even if you don’t) in God every day.
            Meditation helps expand our consciousness into God-Consciousness. In my opinion, whatever one calls God is a matter of semantics.
            IMO it’s unfortunate that so many religious people get distracted with externals and neglect the think and act that they wind up with only an intellectual belief and not an experiential surety which one can have if they try to T/A every day. Amen.

      2. Galin Pheylan says:

        Love This ! Yes !

      3. Randy CHamilton says:

        I hope Kimberly still reads this thread: The bible has 600+ verses that say the opposite of over 600 other verses. Unicorns show up in 9 verses and pi equals 3 in 2 verses. Yeah, Right. Moses stole all of his commandments from older civilizations. Your so called god created plant life BEFORE sunshine. Plants do not live without sunshine. Jesus wanted to burn his enemies in John 15:6. Acts just like a bully when he says follow me or die. NO love there! Also look up Matt 10:34. Read Numbers to see Moses as a slaver, murderer, and a rapist. At Luke 14:26 Jesus says you CANNOT follow him unless you hate your family. Not a nice person. Have you threatened your children with eternal damnation today? After about two thousand years, guess what, he ain’t commin’ back!!!!

        1. Kim says:

          The bible is not chronological….it is event driven. And it gives different perspectives for emphasis. The genesis event was a terraforming process…Not the initial creation. There will indeed come a day of burning. However that is not the return of Jesus. And the Bible does not describe perpetual torment. It describes ashes and oblivion compared to receipt of life. Your knowledge of the Bible record is very poor.

        2. Lionheart says:

          Randy, you are right on man!

          Apologists, and those that truly haven’t read the book of tales, will disagree with you, but you are right.

          He’s like Monty Python’s parrot, he’s dead, and no matter how hard you smack him on the back of his head he ain’t commin’ back.

          🦁❤️

  3. Lori says:

    I have no problem with a cross that originated on private land. As long as it doesn’t inspire any new crosses on public land. My husband has his crosses and I have my pentacles in our home. It’s not a problem. It can only become a problem if we make it one.

    1. John A Anderson, CD, CIF Mons ON says:

      That’s the way I view it. As long as things don’t get added. it’s fine. The cross was used as a grave marker even before the advent of Christianity. If they are willing to allow other faiths the right to put their symbols on markers, we can allow the ones that are already in existence to remain.

      1. Robert Bruce Kelsey says:

        John,
        Ignoring some of the details of the Opinions, that’s more or less what has been established as legal precedent in this case. That is why (contra Kimberly’s 6/24 ad hominem) SCOTUS took the case. The conservative justices hold the view that established practice and/or majority opinion are as valid as the Lemon Test for determining entanglement, and this is one more instance that can be used in future rulings. Ginsberg’s dissent was based on Amicus briefs showing that in the majority opinion at the time the cross could not be substituted for the Star of David.So she was objecting to a principle/assumption used in the majority ruling.

      2. kimberly says:

        this is a non-issue

    2. Galin Pheylan says:

      Yes

  4. Deleski Smith says:

    Hopefully it will stand forever. If ministers can’t stand behind the cross then shame on them.

  5. Dr. Geoffrey C. Olive says:

    A good compromise would be to remove the horizontal side arms leaving a vertical column as the war memorial.

  6. Joe says:

    Symbols being removed, national heros discredited. Sounds like the birth of the Soviet Union.

    1. Kim says:

      An apt analogy

  7. Bonnie nie Ham says:

    It’s a war memorial. In the UK there is one in every town, usually in or near the main town sqaure.

  8. Lynn says:

    An object only has power when we go e it to it. It’s not the cross that ahead his blood. Man created the wound. God give him the strength to hel him have a complete life.

    Now the win article before this.. let’s just pray he hasn’t. He is the son of God. We all are children of God. Please forgive them for they know not what they do.

    P.s. my “,family”

    My family, regardless faces Dow in tears . So wrong. Tell people to stay seaded. Stay calm and stay focused on both the mother and to call or act as calm. ( Never will have this special soup ready) make enough e share.

    Lynn

  9. Secretary3rd says:

    In Roman times a cross had two arms and each could hang two people as a cross had two sides that you could nail two people too.
    It all depends on what you want to believe. The same theory could applied to a graveyard where all faiths can be bury or not.
    In the real Roman world if you made a Roman official mad at you your life would be short and not sweet. The nailing to a cross had to be approve by Rome since it is likely that your fate would be in a mine or pulling a oar not quickly.
    It was better to disgrace a person as a slave then make anyone as a memory.

  10. Carl Earl says:

    It did not sound like they had a problem with the symbol being used to honor the fallen, only that it is now (for the last 59 years) on public land. Transfer the land to a private investor or group that wishes to maintain it as a monument. The argument goes away.

  11. Archers Mom says:

    I chose to be ordained via the internet because I have found no religious institution that has not cherry picked the words of God to fit what thier own narrow minded views are. The 10 commandments and the Golden rule should be what we live by. LOVE one another. Stop the hate, people.

  12. oldaabill says:

    7 – 2 is a very stiff decision to turn around. Government cannot pass a law to get rid of the cross.

  13. James says:

    I believe that the cross should stay. The USA was founded ONE NATION UNDER GOD. if it offends other people move to another country are go back to where they came from. This country was founded on religion freedom so don’t try to take mine away.

  14. James says:

    Randy C Hamilton if you would read the verses before and and after it would explain more. People just can’t pick at verses one at a time

  15. James says:

    A good book to get other than the Bible-BASIC INSTRUCTION BEFORE LEAVING EARTH. is the FOUNDERS BIBLE it tells all about our founder people would be surprised by what is says

  16. Norma Battes says:

    Don
    June 25, 2019 at 7:35 am
    ” This is more hate from the left… ”

    That which you may disagree with isn’t all simply a liberal hate disorder.

    “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

    ― Friedrich W. Nietzsche

  17. Reese Dorrycott says:

    Sure, it can stand, as long as every other religion in the United States is allowed to put an equal sized symbol of their belief with it.

  18. Minister mark says:

    Haters on the left haters on the right just a bunch of morons looking for a fight
    This cross was funded and erected by the mothers ,family and community on private land nearly a century ago heartbroken over the loss of their sons
    For anyone to call for its removal is an outrage no matter who owns the land now
    But there is a group you arrogant idiots agree with. They are called the taliban

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