United States

Court Asked to Reconsider Ruling on Peace Cross War Memorial

The American Legion and other supporters of a cross-shaped war monument on a Maryland highway median just outside Washington have asked a federal appeals court to reconsider a ruling that found having the memorial on public land violates the U.S. Constitution.

Supporters asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hold a hearing by the full court. Last month, a three-judge panel found that the 92-year-old world War I monument known as the Peace Cross "excessively entangles the government in religion."

On Wednesday, the 4th Circuit temporarily suspended its ruling until it decides whether to hold a rehearing.

The American Humanist Association challenged the constitutionality of the 40-foot (12-meter) cross in Bladensburg, saying it endorses Christianity while ignoring non-Christian veterans.

After the court ruled the memorial unconstitutional, Gov. Larry Hogan directed Maryland's attorney general to support a legal challenge against the ruling.

In a letter, Hogan noted that the Peace Cross in Bladensburg is a memorial to 49 Prince George's County residents who died in World War I. The governor also noted that the cross, which is on a state highway median just outside Washington, has been in place for more than 90 years.

"The conclusion that this memorial honoring veterans violates the (Constitution's) Establishment clause offends common sense, is an affront to all veterans, and should not be allowed to stand," Hogan, a Republican, wrote in the letter to Frosh, a Democrat. "I believe, very strongly, that this cherished community memorial does not violate the Constitution. Your office will be Maryland's legal voice in this important litigation."

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Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for Frosh, wrote in an email that the attorney general's office has received the letter and is reviewing it.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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