A 40 Foot Stumbling Block

By: American Decency Staff


Each year on Memorial weekend my sisters and I take our now 89-year-old mom to the cemetery to place flowers at the graves of my father, grandparents, and great-grandparents.  As we walk amidst the headstones, Mom will tell accounts of ones who died decades ago.  Each one has a story – a baby who died in the 1930s, of whopping cough, my mom recalls.  Or a neighboring farm boy who went to war and didn’t return.  Few are still living who remember them.  That’s one reason why we have cemeteries – so that future generations will know that the one memorialized had lived, had meaning, and was worth remembering.

In the aftermath of World War I a group of Gold Star Mothers in Prince George’s County, Maryland, desired to memorialize their sons who had fallen on the battlefields of Europe and were buried in a cemetery across the ocean – where, in all likelihood, these mothers would never be able to visit.  They, along with the American Legion, raised money to erect a 40 foot cross (pictured above) in Bladensburg, MD, as a memorial to the 49 young men from Prince George’s County who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the First World War  One of the Gold Star Mothers, Martha Redman, wrote to her congressman about her son William, stating:  “… I feel that our memorial cross is, in a way, his gravestone.”

This World War I memorial was erected in 1925 and named the Peace Cross.  Yet now, nearly 100 years later, the atheist group, American Humanist Association (AHA), is waging war against the Peace Cross.  In their mission to eradicate any public display of Christianity from society, the AHA filed a lawsuit to have the Peace Cross destroyed.  Well perhaps “destroyed” is not entirely accurate – the radical group said they would also be satisfied if the arms of the cross were chopped off so that the monument no longer looked like a cross.

Three residents of Prince George’s County joined the AHA’s lawsuit, saying they were “offended” by what they perceived to be the monument’s Christian symbolism.  The AHA claims that the mere display of a cross on public land constitutes a government endorsement of Christianity – in their minds a violation of the First Amendment.  As the case made its way through the courts, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately ruled in the Humanists’ favor and the cross will be torn down unless the U.S. Supreme Court rules otherwise

Demonstrating that elections do have consequences, Obama appointed six of the eight judges on the 4th Circuit Court. In the lone dissenting opinion from the 4th Circuit, Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory wrote that the First Amendment “does not require the government ‘to purge from the public sphere’ any reference to religion.”  He also argued that the monument honoring veterans does not “violate the letter or spirit of the very Constitution these heroes died to defend.”

The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the case; however, even with newly confirmed Justice Kavanaugh, the outcome of the case is far from certain.  But imagine if we had had a President Hillary Clinton appoint two new Supreme Court justices – the implications for this precedent-setting case would be grim. 

The fate of the Peace Cross is now in the hands of nine Justices; but not just the fate of this one memorial.  If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court opinion, the implications will be far reaching. If the Peace Cross is somehow deemed to be a governmental “establishment of religion,” then precedence will be set for the removal of crosses at Arlington National Cemetery and every other veterans’ cemetery, as well as any public display of a religious symbol.  (Also currently making its way through the courts is a case from Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, where the Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing to have the county’s seal redesigned because the 75-year old seal includes the depiction of a cross.) 

Ironically, as The Supreme Court sits in judgment over the Peace Cross, they will be looked down upon by the image of Moses.  Moses appears eight times in carvings that ring the Supreme Court Great Hall ceiling and tablets representing the Ten Commandments can be found carved in the courtroom doors of the Supreme Court, on the support frame of the courtroom’s bronze gates and in the library woodwork.  Will all of these depictions have to be sandblasted away, too, along with the crosses and Stars of David that mark the rows upon rows of gravestones in Arlington Cemetery?

That’s what Leftists, such as the AHA, are seeking to do – sandblast every reference to Christianity that permeates our nation’s history.  If the Peace Cross is demolished, it’s not just the names of those 49 soldiers that will be erased from memory, but our nation’s Christian heritage would also be erased, leaving future generations ignorant of the faith upon which our country was established.  As Phillip F. Wright, executive director of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, stated: “We have to remember what has been done in the past in order to guide us going forward.”

A plaque on the monument states: “This Memorial Cross Dedicated To The Heroes of Prince George’s County Who Gave Their Lives In The Great War For The Liberty Of The World.” Inscribed at the base of the cross are these words, seemingly a foreshadowing of the fight for religious liberty we now face on our own soil:  "We shall fight for the things we have always carried nearest to our hearts."

What truly outrages Leftists, however, is not just the image of a cross – but what that cross stands for.  “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Cor. 1:18).   Unlike any other religious symbol, the cross of Christ is a reminder of our sin and need of a Savior.  That is what they cannot tolerate.  And in defiance of their Creator, they seek to destroy any reminder that one day they will stand before Him.

As we come to the close of another year of service, if you are in a position of being able to stand with us financially would you please prayerfully consider supporting the work of ADA now and/or in the days ahead?

God bless you and thank you for whatever you can do to empower this ministry to face the growing challenges of shedding light within our ever increasingly darkened world.

To support our efforts please click here or mail your gift to American Decency Association (ADA), PO Box 202, Fremont, MI 49412. 

American Decency Association is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.




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