Several atheist groups have made steps to remove a large cross from a public roadway in Maryland, citing the monument’s apparent endorsement of religion as a violation of the Constitution.
On March 7, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Center For Inquiry jointly filed an amicus brief in favor of the American Humanist Association, which is challenging the placement of a 40-foot cement and marble cross at a busy intersection in Bladensburg, according to the FFRF. After a district court ruled in November that the cross was constitutional, the AHA filed an appeal with the fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 29, according to the Baltimore Sun.
The monument, known locally as the Peace Cross, was erected in 1925 as a memorial to the veterans of World War I. The AHA argued that its prominent religious imagery, which is on display on government property, is a clear endorsement of Christianity that violates the First Amendment clause mandating the separation of church and state.
However, U.S. District judge Deborah K. Chasanow wrote in her opinion that the monument was not originally built as a religious structure, and that it is used primarily for the secular purpose of celebrating federal holidays, according to the Baltimore Sun.
"There is overwhelming evidence in the record showing that the predominant purpose of the Monument was for secular commemoration," Chasanow wrote in her opinion, citing the common use of unadorned crosses to symbolize those killed in World War I.
However, the FFRF disagreed with the ruling and filed the “friend of the court” brief on March 7 to support the AHA in what it sees as a fight to uphold the Constitution.
"It is without a doubt a religious symbol that cannot survive constitutional scrutiny," the organization said in a statement on its website. "The Foundation staunchly opposes religious displays that give the appearance of religious endorsement by the United States military.”