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Bladensburg Cross Endorses Religion, Says Humanist Group in Appeal

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, merrillmiller@americanhumanist.org

Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, mmiller@americanhumanist.org

(Washington, DC, Feb. 29, 2016)—In its appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center argues that the Christian cross monument in Bladensburg, Maryland, has the effect of endorsing religion and must be removed from public land.

In an appellate brief filed today, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center presents reasons why the Fourth Circuit should reverse the District Court’s decision to uphold the cross in the American Humanist Association’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Christian monument. The Bladensburg cross has the clear effect of endorsing religion, violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. By maintaining, renovating and funding the Christian cross, the government is also unconstitutionally entangled with religion. Christian prayers and services offered by Christian chaplains have been held at the cross further highlighting its religious message and purpose.

“This imposing Christian cross unfairly endorses Christianity while ignoring the sacrifices and dedication of our non-Christian veterans,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Government war memorials should honor the service of all veterans, regardless of religion.”

“Every other court decision involving a cross war memorial has found the memorial unconstitutional,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “By displaying and maintaining this enormous symbol of Christianity as a monument for veterans, the government is sending a strong message of endorsement and exclusion.”

In November, a Maryland federal court ruled that the Bladensburg cross did not violate the First Amendment. The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center announced on December 28 that it would appeal that decision to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The lawsuit was filed in February 2014 on behalf of the American Humanist Association and non-Christian citizens who felt marginalized by the cross, located on a major public roadway median, owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

A copy of the appeal can be viewed here, and the lawsuit can be viewed here.

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Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.