Save P.G. County's Peace Cross Memorial In Legal Battle With Humanists
The Prince George's County Peace Cross, which memorializes local soldiers who died in World War I, has stood in place - at the intersection of Maryland Route 450 and US Route 1 in Bladensburg, Maryland - for more than 90 years.
It was erected in 1925 with the monetary assistance of the American Legion and local families, to honor the 49 P.G. County men who paid the ultimate price in the Great War. The names of the men are listed in bronze at the base of the Cross, and the accompanying scroll even includes a quote from Woodrow Wilson.
The Peace Cross is on Maryland state land, and the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, a Maryland state agency, both owns and is responsible for maintaining and repairing the Cross. Over the years, the Commission has spent over $100,000 on renovations, and has set aside a like amount for future work.
And, although the 40-foot-tall Cross forms part of a larger memorial park honoring veterans from several other wars, that didn't stop the American Humanist Association from taking a court case against the state of Maryland in 2015, to protest the Cross's alleged endorsement of a particular religion.
After their initial case failed at the District Court level, the Humanist Association pursued an appeal in the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
And, just 10 days ago, the Court of Appeals over-ruled the District Court, saying that the Cross is unconstitutional because it "excessively entangles the government in religion."
This is ridiculous - political correctness gone mad.
And, as Kelly Shackleford, president of the First Liberty Institute, a non-profit outfit of legal advisers who helped the American Legion with the court cases, said in an interview with the Washington Post: "[This is an] outrageous ruling that sets a dangerous precedent and threatens the removal of memorials across the country."
And, Chief Judge, Roger L. Gregory, dissenting from the judgement of the other two judges on the three-judge panel, wrote that the First Amendment's so-called "exclusion clause" does not obligate government to, "purge from the public sphere any reference to religion."
Judge Gregory also accused the majority of, "[ignoring] certain elements of the memorial . . . and [confusing] maintenance of a highway median and monument in a state park with excessive religious entanglement."
But, notwithstanding Judge Gregory's commonsense dissent, P.G. County's Peace Cross is under threat because of the Appellate Court's ruling.
Thus, creative action may need to be taken by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission in order to preserve the Peace Cross, in tact, and, in the same place.
Therefore, this petition asks that the Commissioners consider three possible courses of action (none of which are mutually exclusive): 1) Stay the course and support the defendants (and, the Cross), should the case be taken US Supreme Court; 2) Transfer the land (and, only the land on which the Cross, itself, stands) to the American Legion or another suitable third party, so that the Cross is officially in private hands; and, or, 3) Ask the State of Maryland to establish a "Fund for the Preservation of Cultural and Historical Landmarks", and include the Peace Cross in the fund.
Thank you for taking creative action to prevent the removal or the destruction/deformation of the P.G. County Peace Cross.
Photo Credit: Amanda Voisard - The Washington Post
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