An Eternal Flame monument dedicated to World War I casualties.
Photo: Harvey Meston/Getty Images
Photo: Harvey Meston/Getty Images

Court: Cross shaped monument honoring WWI vets ruled unconstitutional

A 40-foot Latin cross-shaped monument in Maryland, built nearly a century ago to honor soldiers who died during World War I, has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court, CNN reported

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The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday by a 2-1 margin that the 92-year-old structure was in violation of the First Amendment because it is on public land at a busy intersection in Prince George's County and is maintained with government funds. The court's decision does not address whether the monument should be removed or modified.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the American Legion, who were named as defendants in the case, argued that the cross had a nonreligious purpose “does not have the primary effect of endorsing religion.”

But the appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, sided 2-1 with the American Humanist Association, an organization that advocates for secularism and represented several non-Christian residents of Prince George's County.

The memorial was completed in 1925 using contributions from private donors and the American Legion. It was acquired in 1961 by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

If the Supreme Court declines to hear the case, a district court judge would have to decide whether to order the removal of the cross, said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association.

"It's hard to think of remedies other than removal," Niose told CNN, though he said there is the "possibility of modifying the structure."

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