Federal Court rules Bladensburg Cross unconstitutional, TAL to appeal to the Supreme Court

 
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Federal Court rules Bladensburg Cross unconstitutional, TAL to appeal to the Supreme Court
Editor's Note: The major complaint people seem to have in the comments is that the Legion is spending money on this.  Let me put your mind to rest, we are not.  No funds are being used for this.  First Liberty is representing us Pro Bono, i.e. no funds are being spent on this.  The second is that we should be supporting the Constitution, not fighting it.  Well, the constitutionality of issues is determined by the Supreme Court (see for example Marbury v. Madison) and we are asking them to do just that in this instance.

I won’t go too far into the weeds on this one yet, as the appeal hasn’t been written, but everyone is asking about it, so I might as well cover the decision and overarching legal basis:
A federal appeals court is standing by a ruling that calls for the removal or destruction of a large cross-shaped monument on public land that has towered over a busy Maryland intersection for nearly 100 years.
In a closely divided vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit refused to reconsider an earlier decision that found government funding for the 40-foot-tall memorial in Prince George’s County an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
The 8-to-6 vote drew passionate dissents from several judges and could end up before the Supreme Court, which has not provided clear guidance about displays of religion on government land.
Supporters of the Peace Cross, who say it is a secular tribute to local men killed in World War I, vowed to appeal.
“We cannot allow it to be the final word,” said Hiram Sasser, deputy chief counsel for First Liberty, a religious-freedom organization representing the American Legion. “If this decision stands, other memorials — including those in nearby Arlington Cemetery — will be targeted for destruction as well.”
To supporters, like TAL and First Liberty that is representing us, the 100 years thing is important.  From a dissent:
Forty-nine names appear on the plaque at the base of the Great War memorial in Prince George’s County. Aggregate figures do not do justice to individual soldiers. Each name marks the tragedy of a life lost before its time. Each death marks a worthy sacrifice.
 
We honor those Americans who died serving their country in different ways. Families respect their fallen sons and daughters in pictures, prayers, and memory. Their country honors them in ceremony, as at Memorial Day, but more often with quietude.
 
The dead cannot speak for themselves. But may the living hear their silence. We should take care not to traverse too casually the line that separates us from our ancestors and that will soon enough separate us from our descendants. The present has many good ways of imprinting its values and sensibilities upon society. But to roil needlessly the dead with the controversies of the living does not pay their deeds or their time respect.

This memorial and this cross have stood for almost one full century. Life and change flow by the small park in the form of impatient cars and trucks. That is disturbance enough.  

Veterans Memorial Park may not be Arlington National Cemetery, but it is the next thing to it. I would let the cross remain and let those honored rest in peace.
 The case essentially pits Supreme Court decisions against each other.   In holding the cross violates the constitution, the court found:

In seeking rehearing of this case en banc, Petitioner Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission, a state entity (the “Commission”), again asks this Court to hold that Maryland’s ownership and maintenance of the Bladensburg Cross—a 40-foot tall Latin cross erected at an intersection in Prince George’s County—does not have the “principal or primary effect” of advancing the Christian faith. Appellee’s Pet. for Reh’g En Banc at 12. Rather, according to the Commission, this Court should conclude that the Bladensburg Cross has lost its predominantly sectarian meaning, to the extent that it ever had any such meaning, and now stands as a symbol of the soldiers who died on the field of battle in World War I.
 
But the Latin cross has for centuries been widely recognized as “the pre-eminent symbol of Christianity.” Nothing in the First Amendment empowers the judiciary to conclude that the freestanding Latin cross has been divested of this predominately sectarian meaning.
 
Our holding that the State’s ongoing ownership and maintenance of the Bladensburg Cross violated the Establishment Clause recognizes that to hold otherwise would require this Court to accept the Commission’s conclusion that the Latin cross does not have the “principal or primary effect” of advancing the Christian faith. To give the judiciary the power to prescribe and proscribe the meaning of an unadorned, traditionally religious symbol like the Latin cross would infringe on intensely personal and sacred questions of religious meaning and belief. 2 Such governmental prescription of religious belief would serve only to “degrade religion”—one of the principal outcomes the Framers of the Religion Clauses sought to forestall. Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 431 (1962).
 
However, in so finding, they seem to have dismissed a case called Van Orden, in which the Supreme Court looked at “historicity” among other things to place the monument in context.  From a dissent:

The panel, in a 2-1 decision, will now have the monument removed or destroyed because, as it concludes, its presence on public land amounts to a violation of the Establishment Clause, although no Supreme Court case has ever held that the Establishment Clause prohibits such monuments. Indeed, it has held to the contrary —that “the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment allows the display” of monuments like the one here. Van Orden, 545 U.S. at 681 (emphasis added) (plurality opinion) (holding that the Establishment Clause allows a large granite monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments to stand on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol); id. at 700–01, 703–04 (Breyer, J., concurring in the judgment). The panel opinion seeks to distinguish Van Orden on the ground that the cross as a symbol “differs from other religious monuments, such as the Ten Commandments” because the Ten Commandments is “well known as being tied to our Nation’s history and government” and because, unlike the monument at issue in Van Orden, the monument here is “conspicuously displayed at a busy intersection.” The panel further rationalizes that when crosses are ordinarily used to commemorate fallen soldiers, such as in Arlington National Cemetery, they “are much smaller than the 40-foot tall monolith at issue here.” The opinion, however, fails to recognize that there are similarly sized monuments incorporating crosses in the Arlington National Cemetery — indeed, also elsewhere nearby. The panel opinion directs the district court, which had held that the Establishment Clause was not violated by the monument, to consider on remand whether the arms of the cross should be “remov[ed]” or the cross entirely “raz[ed],” or other “arrangements [could be made] that would not offend the Constitution.”
 
…It strains established judicial analysis to conclude that Van Orden does not allow the monument in this case to stand as a secular memorial to the lives of soldiers lost during war in service of the Nation. The panel decision not only wrongly distinguishes Van Orden, but, in doing so, also offends the monument’s commemoration of those soldiers’ sacrifice. Moreover, it puts at risk hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of similar monuments.
 
The Establishment Clause was never intended to be so interpreted, and the Supreme Court has never so interpreted it.
 
The dissent notes the very reason that Liberty First and The American Legion are appealing.  As First Liberty noted:
 
No Supreme Court case has ever held that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits monuments like the Bladensburg Memorial.

It has said the very opposite. Supreme Court precedent shows that the First Amendment allows the display of such monuments.

We’re preparing to fight this case to the very end. We must do everything we can to overturn the Fourth Circuit’s opinion. We cannot sit idly on the sidelines and let this become an ugly national purge of our nation’s sacred and historic monuments.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you leave a comment, and don't see it immediately, take heart, you are not being censored. Because we get so much spam, I have to okay each comment as it comes in. If you leave a comment after work hours I will probably get to it fairly quickly, but with a 2.5 year old and twin 7 month olds, sometimes I am just super busy. But it will show up unless it has profanity or something of that nature. WE ARE NOT CENSORING YOU. It just has to be approved, or we end up with people trying to plug witch doctors. (yes, really)

Posted in the burner | 126 comments
 
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Comments

THIS WHOLE THING IS RIDICULOUS !!!! WHY NOT SELL THE PLOT AND CROSS TO A PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL OR GROUP FOR $ 1.00. WOULDN'T THAT MAKE IT LEGAL ?

IF THE COURT AGREES, DOES THAT MEAN WE HAVE TO TAKE DOWN ALL OF THE CROSSES IN MILITARY CEMETERIES BOTH HERE AND ABROAD . THESE CEMETERIES HONOR THOSE BRAVE MEN WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES SO OUR CONSTITUTION COULD SURVIVE. I HAVE VISITED MANY U. S. MILITARY CEMETERIES IN THE USA, EUROPE, AND ASIA HONORING OUR FALLEN HEROS, AND I THINK THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL REMINDERS
THAT OUR TROOPS DID NOT DIE IN VAIN. THEY GAVE THEIR LIVES AND THEIR TOMORROWS SO WE COULD STILL ENJOY OUR YESTERDAYS.

IT'S A CROSS IF YOU DON'T LIKE DON'T LOOK AT IT, IT'S THERE FOR PEOPLE TO PRAY TOO BUT THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO SAY A QUICK PAYER FOR THE FALLEN IF THEY FEEL LIKE IT. LEAVE THE CROSS

Ideally, I'd like to see the land purchased by an organization (such as the American Legion) that honors the memory of our country's war dead, so that this controversy becomes a non-issue. (And if funding the purchase would be a problem, I'm sure that the money could be raised by the Legion through subscriptions.) If grass-cutting really is a serious problem, the lawn could be removed and replaced by some form of paving.

Failing that, in my opinion removing the "arms" of the cross would seem to cause the least disruption to the monument, and might allow descendants of the non-Christian dead to feel that their forebears really are included.

Most importantly, while clarification of such constitutional issues may be useful, total destruction of a cherished and long-standing testament to the memory of our war dead would NOT be at all useful. Thank you for reading this.

Just have to say it's sad what this country has become.

I'm a veteran and I grew up not far from this cross that sits in the middle of the road on a little piece of land not hurting a thing just reminding us that some brave soles lost there lives in WW1 that lived in Bladensburg, Md. What is wrong with this country, you people should hide your face in shame when see a brave soldier that fought for your right to protest against a memorial like this one.

Look out Arlington Cemetery the Liberal snow flakes are coming to take down every Cross. They wish !!

I support crosses remaining on public land.

My shelf life is about to expire. I would like to be buried in Arlington with all the other bubble heads. How about put a McDonalds M on my grave, Who could argue with that... Oh Yeah, Wendys, Burger King, Taco Bell etc...etc,,,etc.How about everybody get over it and give stuff a pass that was put there fifty or more years ago. It's all history, and succeeding generations should have reminders of what we went through to get here. The law makers went too far. Time to back off a little?

If you want a cross put it on your own land (if your Homeowners association permits it.

What’s happened to the America I grew up in this is part of what’s wrong leave the CROSS out of it

The is currently a debate over the Pere Marquette cross in Ludington,Michigan. Township officials are considering options.

The ludicrous logic of atheists and God haters just goes on unabated. Anyone who believes this is a church vs state issue only need look no further than the intent and spiritual beliefs of those our soldiers fought and died fighting against. Do any of you really believe Americans battled the Japanese, Nazis, N. Koreans(including Chicoms), and communist Vietnamese because we wanted to establish a religion or church in those countries? Really? And erecting a cross is establishing a religion? Most of these men were Christians but you deny them their right to have their faith honored because you believe a piece of paper containing a Constitution is more important to you than their beliefs? What you believe today is more important to you than the faith these brave soldiers carried with them into battle? What's next, demanding that every person who signs up for military duty promise to not take their faith with them into harms way? This is not a church vs state issue, but a convoluted and distorted destruction of the intent of the founding fathers to protect everyone's right to remain faithful in their beliefs no matter the circumstances. Atheists and God haters want to destroy that right and imposed their destructive spiritual beliefs on those who love and have faith in God and not a faith in a destructive secular mentality that can only lead to the destruction of a nation that we so dearly love and respect. God bless America.

Perhaps they should look at the solution that was reached for the Mt. Soledad Cross in San Diego, California. A war memorial in the shape of a cross is often just that, a war memorial in honor of the men who have given their life in the service of our country.

Does anyone recall the hue and cry of historians and archeologists over when the Taliban was destroying artifacts and monuments in Iran and Iraq? Why are those voices so silent now that OUR monuments are under attack? Hippocritic at best!

This is a question for all you historians. Are there any records where the cross was or was not permitted to stand on public land during the lifetimes of the Founders of our Republic? If the cross was permitted to stand on public land during their lifetime, does that mean anything? After all, they wrote the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, they should know exactly what the 1st Amendment means, wouldn’t they?

I am interested in reading your replies. If you can, please provide a source for the information.

Rather than tear it down. How about leasing a small plot of ground to some Christian church for a small fee . cheaper than demolition

I am not trying to tell people what to do. If they have not done anything all these years then they should leave the cross stand because it is there to show love honor and respect to, not only the men whose names are mentioned, but to every person who put time in, in any way in the service of their country.
I served my time in 1953 - 1955) Maybe there should be a monument put up with the names of everyone who is opposing this Cross.

This is a memorial to the men who fought to keep this country free from tyranical authority. The judges who favored the removal of this memorial are communists or liberal who have lost sight of what this country stands for. This memorial like the many other memorials around the world symbolize the sacrifice of soldiers who gave their all so others can act irresponsibly. If this is unconstitutional so is the prayer session held before each session of the congress. Lets remember we are all American and leave our memorial to our heros alone.

This memorial should stay where it is and as constructed. If the cross is so offensive than we should remove all the tombstones engraved with a cross or Star of David in Arlington National Cemetery and all National cemeteries throughout the United States; remove Abraham Lincoln's Memorial as his speech engraved in the Memorial wall refers to God; remove the south wall of Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial as his words refer to "loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional..."; and prohibit everyone from putting roadside crosses along roads/streets to commemorate where a loved one died. We must be vigilant that "special" groups not alter our history, as described by Chloe Kaczvinsky's article printed in the Journal of International Relations, October 12, 2016, where she states: "Cultural monuments and sites have historical and personal significance for nations. A radical group may target such sites to demonstrate a blatant and intentional disregard for a culture’s history and to display the scope of the group’s power over a population. Such tactics have historically been employed in cases of genocide, in which this denigration of physical space symbolizes the destruction a people or a previous history that does not align with the radical group’s cause. Considering the power of such cultural sites, it is therefore unsurprising that radical groups who aim to change the status quo to accommodate their ideologies also gravitate towards destroying important cultural sites that represent the existing order. One of the most famous campaigns is the Nazi destruction of various cultural artifacts under the Third Reich. Further, the waves of destruction of monuments and cultural icons in the Middle East may be linked to the rise of radical Islam and the idea that these cultural items contradict Islamic fundamentals. It is therefore evident that cultural heritage destruction primarily targets physical symbols of history such as monuments or cultural sites that may oppose a radical group’s beliefs or motives. Idols that may counter a religion’s doctrine or the history of an opposing ethnicity are equally targeted. However, within this seemingly simple desire, it is also important to consider the role power plays in the destruction, whether it be over the targeted group or as a general demonstration to display a group’s adeptness to the international community. Understanding how sites are targeted is thus essential in trying to preserve these sites, important to both local communities and to world heritage, that remain under threat of destruction."

This memorial should stay where it is and as constructed. If the cross is so offensive than we should remove all the tombstones engraved with a cross or Star of David in Arlington National Cemetery and all National cemeteries throughout the United States; remove Abraham Lincoln's Memorial as his speech engraved in the Memorial wall refers to God; remove the south wall of Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial as his words refer to "loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional..."; and prohibit everyone from putting roadside crosses along roads/streets to commemorate where a loved one died. We must be vigilant that "special" groups not alter our history, as described by Chloe Kaczvinsky's article printed in the Journal of International Relations, October 12, 2016, where she states: "Cultural monuments and sites have historical and personal significance for nations. A radical group may target such sites to demonstrate a blatant and intentional disregard for a culture’s history and to display the scope of the group’s power over a population. Such tactics have historically been employed in cases of genocide, in which this denigration of physical space symbolizes the destruction a people or a previous history that does not align with the radical group’s cause. Considering the power of such cultural sites, it is therefore unsurprising that radical groups who aim to change the status quo to accommodate their ideologies also gravitate towards destroying important cultural sites that represent the existing order. One of the most famous campaigns is the Nazi destruction of various cultural artifacts under the Third Reich. Further, the waves of destruction of monuments and cultural icons in the Middle East may be linked to the rise of radical Islam and the idea that these cultural items contradict Islamic fundamentals. It is therefore evident that cultural heritage destruction primarily targets physical symbols of history such as monuments or cultural sites that may oppose a radical group’s beliefs or motives. Idols that may counter a religion’s doctrine or the history of an opposing ethnicity are equally targeted. However, within this seemingly simple desire, it is also important to consider the role power plays in the destruction, whether it be over the targeted group or as a general demonstration to display a group’s adeptness to the international community. Understanding how sites are targeted is thus essential in trying to preserve these sites, important to both local communities and to world heritage, that remain under threat of destruction."

Before they take this cross down they might look at removing the crosses from Arlington........................I DON'T THINK SO

You pc's make me sick! This is a memorial to deceased servicemen.Nothing to do with religion.You liberals should do something productive for a change beside whining.You disgust me.

Having been born and raised around Peace Cross and a military vet. I have never looked on it as a religions icon (Christian or otherwise). I have always looked on it as a memorial of our veterans who gave their lives for this country. This is a sad reminder of where our country is going. Peace Cross should remain for hundreds of years more.

Please think twice. We are heading down the road of history being rewritten. It's so sad that the United States of America is in such a sad state of affairs. Live Long

I find it hard to understand, that if you put up a Christian Cross or a Star of David up, some people think it outrageous. But, put a Muslim emblem or any thing else that isn't a reflection of Christians or Jews and it is okay. And for the people who do not believe that this great Country was founded on Christian values, should reread and research American History books. This Country was created as " One Nation under God", a Christian God. Not a generic god or a wooden idol !

The monument is an excellent depiction of the Letter "T" from the alphabet. Since when did the letter "T" become a religious symbol?

Let the complainers go "Suck It" on that legal depiction and legal point.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.