The Bladensburg Cross


Earlier this week, the American Legion and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission had what should be their final day in court over the Bladensburg Cross, a war memorial to the town’s World War I dead. The American Humanist Association has sued to have the 91-foot tall concrete cross removed because … well, it’s a cross, and that’s too Christian. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the Humanists. The American Legion and Planning Commission appealed.

Part of the defense of the monument is the notion that it is a memorial to dead soldiers that takes the same form as their grave markers. Matthew Vadum reporting at The Epoch Times on the Supreme Court hearing notes that Neal Katyal, the Park Commission’s lawyer, told the court—

In the context of World War I, crosses have a secular meaning in that they honor those who perished in the conflict, Katyal said.

The “dominant image of the time, everything from that poem to art, to the war bond advertisements that the United States Government put, to the 1924 congressional resolution, all did use this cross.”

“That poem” refers to words written by Lt.-Col. John McCrae of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915 after he buried a friend who was killed in combat in Belgium. It begins, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row …”

The Humanists claim that the monument dishonors the non-Christian war dead. The American Legion respond that such a claim is nonsense, noting in one of its briefs that it had many non-Christian members at the time the memorial was built. In fact, J. Moses Edlavitch, a Jewish veteran who was one of the local chapter’s leaders, signed the deed for the land upon which the monument was eventually built.

This leads to a question about the facts of the matter. The monument honors the town’s war dead. It’s in a shape reminiscent of a grave marker. Do any of the dead being honored actually have non-cruciform headstones?

Meanwhile, we can wait for the Supreme Court to rule.

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