What Happens When Angry Atheists Demand a WWI Heroes’ Memorial Cross be Torn Down?
This is the story of a major victory for our veterans, for those who died serving our country and for religious liberty at the Supreme Court.
A few years ago I went to visit the Memorial Cross in Bladensburg, Maryland right outside of Washington, DC. It has the names of the servicemen who died from that area serving the United States in World War I inscribed on it.
You may recall that during World War I it was very unlikely that bodies would be flown back from the battlefield to the United States, so often times our servicemen had their burials overseas. This Memorial was specific to the members of the community who were killed serving their country from Bladensburg, Maryland and the surrounding area. In a sense this cross was a memorial to their service in World War I but it was also in many ways like a grave. It has their names on it, specifically, those who lost their lives from that area of the country serving the United States in World War I.
This cross was erected in 1925. There were no legal problems until we start getting into 2017 and 2018. Yet again a group of angry atheists, this time the American Humanist Association, filed a lawsuit against the cross. Ultimately, this is more than just a symbol of sacrifice for World War I veterans, this served as a gravestone for the families who lost loved ones in World War I.
The American Humanist Association wanted to have the cross removed, completely taken down, or have the arms of the Cross taken off. They filed a lawsuit, because that’s what they do. We fought back filing a critical amicus brief at the Supreme Court. The American Legion fought back.
Ultimately, just to tell you how seriously we have to take challenges like this to a 1925 Memorial to our servicemen killed in World War I, the 4th Circuit actually ruled that it was unconstitutional. It had to be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Just recently, in a pretty overwhelming opinion, 7-2. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that the Cross is absolutely constitutional. They cited one of our cases. The government has a right to speech and that the government has the ability to choose its speech. That rationale came from a case that my dad argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, which was a 9-0 victory defending a 10 Commandments Monument at a city Park in Utah. Again, we won 7-2 but it had to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to protect this 1925 Memorial to our veterans who died in World War I. Thankfully, the Supreme Court did the right thing with the 7-2 victory.
If a group of angry atheists can challenge a 1925 Memorial Cross and get their case all the way to the Supreme Court, and find circuit courts that agree with them at the federal level . . . What's Next?