Case Summary

Aggressive atheist groups, such as the American Humanist Association and the so-called Freedom From Religion Foundation, are trying to tear down war memorials across the country–simply because those memorials were made in the shape of a cross. One such memorial, called The Peace Cross, commemorates 49 fallen WWI soldiers from Prince George’s County, Maryland. Atheists have also threatened the town of Taos, NM, where a cross-shaped memorial honoring victims of WWII’s Bataan Death March has stood for decades. MSLF is fighting on behalf of the town of Taos because we know that if the atheists succeed in this case, they will not stop until they have banned every public display of the cross in the country. We believe local communities have the right to honor their fallen heroes without interference from meddlesome atheists who live thousands of miles away.

Case History

In Bladensburg, Maryland, a short distance from the Supreme Court of the United States, stands a 40-foot-tall World War I memorial in the shape of a cross constructed in 1925. The Peace Cross, which commemorates 49 fallen soldiers from Prince George’s County, was built with funding from local families and the American Legion, but the state obtained title to the cross and land in 1961 and has spent at least $117,000 to maintain the memorial.

In 2014, the American Humanist Association challenged the constitutionality of the memorial, by filing a lawsuit against the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

In November of 2015, a Maryland federal district court upheld the constitutionality of the memorial. In October of 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (2-1) reversed the ruling. A petition for rehearing was denied in March of 2018 over a strong dissent. Petitions for certiorari were filed on June 25 and June 27, 2018.

On July 26, 2018 Mountain States Legal Foundation filed an amicus curiae brief urging that the Court grant the petitions on behalf of the Town of Taos, a small artistic community in northern New Mexico that also has a cross-shaped memorial honoring its largely Latino veterans and war dead from the Bataan Death March in World War II.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation recently threatened the town of Taos with a lawsuit over the memorial. MSLF is defending the right of the people of Taos to honor their war heroes as they see fit.

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