AUSTIN – The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that a cross may continue to mark a World War I veterans memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland. Last year, Attorney General Paxton joined a bipartisan 28-state amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to protect the cross, which serves a memorial to fallen veterans and has been standing for nearly a century. The 7-2 decision confirmed that it does not violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
Although finished by the American Legion, the memorial was started by community members and mothers whose sons died in World War I. The American Humanist Association, an atheist legal organization that routinely challenges innocuous religious symbolism all over the country, filed a lawsuit in 2014 to force the state of Maryland to tear down the 40-foot Peace Cross.
“The military has used the cross as a symbol of military service for much of our history, including at the time the First Amendment was written,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Public expressions of faith and piety have a long and venerable history in this country, one this office will never hesitate to defend. We're heartened in that effort by the Supreme Court’s resounding decision to protect the memorial of our fallen soldiers from needless desecration.”
The Supreme Court’s decision could impact similar memorials across the nation, including those at Arlington National Cemetery. Crosses are common on headstones at that cemetery, and a 24-foot granite cross – known as the Canadian Cross of Sacrifice – stands near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.