Bladensburg Cross Excludes Non-Christian Veterans and Violates Constitution, CFI Tells Supreme Court


For Immediate Release: February 1, 2019
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
press@centerforinquiry.org - (207) 358-9785

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The Bladensburg war memorial is a blatant and obvious endorsement of Christianity, in violation of the Constitution and an affront to non-Christian military servicemembers, the Center for Inquiry told the U.S. Supreme Court in an amicus brief for the case of Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission v. American Humanist Association, submitted in partnership with allies in the secular movement.

The case centers on the “Bladensburg Cross,” a 40’ tall concrete Latin cross in the DC suburbs which was erected as a war memorial to 49 residents of the surrounding county who died in World War One. The cross, which dominates the surrounding area, is publicly owned and maintained. In October 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the cross represented an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, in violation of the First Amendment.

“It’s hard to imagine any public display that is more an endorsement not just of religion in general, but of Christianity in particular, than this monument,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel. “The Latin cross to any observer represents Christianity. It is simply dishonest to suggest anything different.”

In the brief, the secular groups show how American society has become more religiously diverse, with studies demonstrating that those without any religious affiliation make up a plurality of Americans, more numerous than any branch of Christianity or other religion. They assert that the use of such a sectarian symbol, displayed in public, maintained at taxpayer expense, serves to stigmatize and marginalize Americans without religious affiliation, and those who follow religions other than Christianity.

“Commemoration of the Americans who paid the ultimate price in the service of this nation is not the exclusive domain of any single religion, Christian or otherwise,” said Little. “The U.S. military has always gone to great lengths to ensure that individual religions cannot co-opt the memory of those fallen in combat. It’s just wrong to refuse to acknowledge the masses of atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and other servicemen and women by presuming a Latin cross can represent them and their sacrifice.”

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at centerforinquiry.org.