Federal appeals court rules cross-shaped monument unconstitutional

A federal appeals court has ruled that a World War I monument in the shape of a cross is unconstitutional.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit said Wednesday that the 40-foot-tall “Peace Cross,” located in Prince George's County, Md., just outside of Washington, D.C., is a government endorsement of religion because it is maintained with taxpayer dollars, according to The Washington Post.

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The case was brought by the American Humanist Association, a secular group that said having a large cross on government property is exclusionary and violates the First Amendment.

Roy Speckhard, executive director of the association, said that “government war memorials should respect all veterans, not just those from one religious group.”

Though the cross has several features that are non-religious, including a quote from President Wilson, the court wrote that “the sectarian elements easily overwhelm the secular ones" and that the memorial "has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion.”

The sole dissenting judge on the three-judge panel wrote that the First Amendment does not require the government to “purge” any religious references from public view.

The ruling does not mean that the memorial will be immediately removed.

Supporters of the monument have pledged to bring the case to the Supreme Court, which is already tackling several religious freedom cases this year.