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Brief filed with Supreme Court to try to save cross-shaped war memorial

BLADENSBURG, Maryland – A national public interest law firm has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in “a last-ditch effort” to save a 40-foot-tall cross memorializing soldiers who died in World War I that sits at a busy intersection in the Washington suburb of Bladensburg.

Last October, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Richmond, Virginia, ruled 2-1 that the 93-year-old monument is unconstitutional and must be removed or destroyed. “(It) has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion.”

“The use of the cross reflected the custom in Europe during World War I,” the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, Michigan, said in a July 30 statement. It filed its brief with the U.S. Supreme Court July 27.

In Europe “the cross became the principal grave marker in cemeteries where soldiers were buried, as described in … ‘In Flanders Fields,’ a famous poem of the time whose opening lines begin, ‘In Flanders fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row,’” the law center said.

Known as the Bladensburg Cross or the Peace Cross, the cement and marble memorial was erected by the Snyder-Farmer Post of the American Legion of Hyattsville, Maryland, to recall the 49 men of Prince George’s County who died in World War I. The cross, whose construction was funded by local families, was dedicated July 13, 1925.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission acquired the memorial from the American Legion in 1961. It is located at Maryland Route 450 and U.S. Route 1. The state agency has spent about $117,000 to maintain and repair the memorial and has earmarked $100,000 for renovations.

Read more at Crux. 

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