Attorney General Ken Paxton today joined a bipartisan group of 28 states in fighting to protect a historic cross honoring World War I veterans as part of a case with much broader implications for the First Amendment.
The multistate coalition urges the U.S. Supreme Court to consider and ultimately protect veterans memorials that include religious symbolism. The friend-of-the-court brief seeks to overturn a lower court’s ruling that one such memorial violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The case revolves around a nearly century-old memorial in the shape of a cross in Bladensburg, Maryland. 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 and others filed a lawsuit in 2014 to force the state of Maryland to tear down the 40-foot Peace Cross.
“Our military has used the cross as a symbol of military service for much of our nation’s history, including at the time of the First Amendment’s writing” Attorney General Paxton said. “Veterans memorials are reminders of the service and sacrifice of Americans who gave their lives defending our country’s freedom. Tearing down any part of a veterans memorial dishonors service members’ sacrifice and undermines the very values our Constitution was intended to protect.”
The Supreme Court’s ultimate decision could impact 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.
Attorney General Paxton joined the West Virginia-led brief with attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia, as well as the governor of Kentucky.
View a copy of the brief here.