The judges ruled that this Maryland monument is in violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment Establishment Clause.
None of the Framers believed that a governmental connection to religion was an evil in itself. Rather, many (though not all) opposed an established church because they believed that it was a threat to the free exercise of religion. Their primary goal was to protect free exercise. That was the main thrust of James Madison’s famous Memorial and Remonstrance (1785), in which he argued that the state of Virginia ought not to pay the salaries of the Anglican clergy because that practice was an impediment to a person’s free connection to whatever religion his conscience directed him.
How is this monument in any way connected to the government establishing a state religion?
A three-judge court panel ruled Wednesday that a World War I memorial in the shape of a cross in Bladensburg, Maryland, is unconstitutional, a decision that a legal scholar says could imperil other similar memorials.
In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit said the 40-foot cross erected 92 years ago violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
“The monument here has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion,” Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote for the majority. “The Latin cross is the core symbol of Christianity. And here, it is 40 feet tall; prominently displayed in the center of one of the busiest intersections in Prince George’s County, Maryland; and maintained with thousands of dollars in government funds.”
The Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial is dedicated to 49 servicemen who perished in WWI. The cross is owned and maintained by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which acquired it from the American Legion in 1961 due to development around the cross.
In 2014, the American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit asking for the cross to be demolished or altered, such as by removing its arms “to form a non-religious slab or obelisk.”….