The AHA Argues at the Supreme Court in Bladensburg Cross Case
On February 27, 2019, the American Humanist Association argued in front of the Supreme Court of the United States regarding the unconstitutionality of a 40-foot-tall Christian cross towering over a bustling Bladensburg, Maryland intersection.
As the leading progressive voice in America working on behalf of humanists, atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers, the American Humanist Association holds that our government must remain neutral on religious questions. But it will take hard work to protect this fundamental right.
Our legal team has worked tirelessly in making their arguments in the nation’s highest court. Here are a few ways you can help our cause and spread the word that the fight for separation of church and state is far from over:
The AHA filed its initial complaint against the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in February 2014, and has been engaged ever since.
• Learn more about the legal details of the case and browse court documents on the Appignani Humanist Legal Center’s dedicated Bladensburg page.
Add your name to our growing list of supporters who are firm in their message: our government has no place in endorsing any one religion.
Veterans of many faiths—and no faith —have fought and died for our country, but the current monument only honors Christian veterans. The #HonorThemAll social media campaign highlights non-Christian veterans who have been ignored and veterans of all faiths who do not believe that a cross is an appropriate war memorial. Learn more about this campaign here.
As the AHA legal team began their arguments in front of the Supreme Court on February 27, we rallied to support veterans of all faiths & none on the steps in front of the court.
We’re counting on you to step up and support the AHA at this critical time. Become a member or donate here so that we have the resources we need to ensure that our government is a democracy and not a theocracy.
The American Humanist Association filed a complaint against the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (Commission) in February 2014. The complaint challenged the constitutionality of a 40-foot-tall Christian cross owned, maintained, and funded by the Commission. The cross towers over a busy intersection in Bladensburg, Maryland.
The AHA appealed the initial decision of the United States District Court of Maryland and presented oral arguments before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in December 2016. The court held that the government’s monolithic Christian cross unconstitutionally endorses Christianity and fosters excessive government entanglement with religion.
In June 2018, the American Legion, an early intervenor, and the Commission individually petitioned the United States Supreme Court to issue a writ of certiorari, hear the case, and overturn the Fourth Circuit’s ruling. The AHA filed oppositions to both petitions, citing over thirty federal cases finding crosses unconstitutional, and highlighting concurring opinions from both Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito.
The government’s massive cross is in dangerous disrepair. Taxpayers have already spent $117,000 in public funds on the cross and an additional $100,000 is earmarked for necessary repairs, which may be futile. In an email, a Commission official expressed relief at the prospect that the Christian cross monument may very well crumble on its own, writing that “repairs to the structure have not proven sustainable or helpful in the long term” and suggesting the Commission start from scratch. Additionally, recent government records refer to the cross as a “public eyesore” and a “safety hazard.”
The American Humanist Association desires a war memorial that is inclusive of all veterans who have served our country with bravery and dignity, and are worthy of veneration. Veterans of many faiths—and no faith—call Maryland home, and veterans of many faiths—and no faith —have fought and died for our country, but the current monument only honors Christian veterans.
The cross does not recognize the pluralistic nature of veterans nor of Americans at large. Religious war memorials are wholly appropriate at religious venues, not on public property. It is imperative that the Bladensburg cross appropriately honor all veterans who served, especially given that the cross was rededicated in 1985 “in honor and memory of all veterans.” As the Fourth Circuit judge suggested, the current memorial should be removed, reshaped, or its ownership be reassigned.
#HonorThemAll in the News
Feb. 25, 2019 | TheHumanist.com
The Cross and American Militarism
Feb. 24, 2019 | Rewire.News
Jesus Is My Savior… and I Oppose the Bladensburg Cross Memorial
Feb. 22, 2019 | Maryland Independent
Bladensburg ‘Peace Cross’ doesn’t honor all
Feb. 4, 2019 | TheHumanist.com
The Mythology of a Cross: A Dozen Bladensburg Claims Debunked
Jan. 16, 2019 | The Spirit of Jefferson
How The Spirit’s Editorial on the Bladensburg Cross Got It Wrong
Jan. 14, 2019 | Deseret News
The Supreme Court Could Reinterpret the First Amendment in a Conservative Direction This Term. Here’s How.
Jan. 12, 2019 | The Keene Sentinel
One Nation Under God and Jefferson’s Wall
Jan. 7, 2019 | TheHumanist.com
Trump Weighs in on Humanists’ Cross Case
Jan. 4, 2019 | The Fairfax Times
Humanist Defends Proposal to Tear Down WWI Memorial
Dec. 20, 2018 | Friendly Atheist
Here’s Why the Supreme Court Must Declare the Bladensburg Cross Unconstitutional
Dec. 17, 2018 | TheHumanist.com
The Framers Weren’t Cross Enthusiasts
Dec. 13, 2018 | SCOTUSBlog
Symposium: Cross purposes — Why a Christian symbol can’t memorialize all war dead
Dec. 11, 2018 | SCOTUSBlog
Symposium: Supreme Court at the Crossroads of the Establishment Clause As It Considers a Cross
Nov. 28, 2018 | The Washington Post: Opinions
The Problem of the Bladensburg Peace Cross
Nov. 26, 2018 | The Los Angeles Times
Another ‘Cross’ Case Could Undermine Our Separation of Church and State
Nov. 12, 2018 | ReWire.News
The Supreme Court Case That Could Bring Down the Wall of Separation Between Church and State
Nov. 3, 2018 | The Friendly Atheist
Supreme Court Will Hear Case Involving Giant Taxpayer-Maintained Christian Cross
Sept. 27, 2018 | The Washington Post: Opinions
Government Funding Can’t Promote A Religious Symbol
Feb. 26, 2014 | The Humanist
Why We Sued Bladensburg, MD Over A 40-Foot Cross
Read more Bladensburg cross stories on TheHumanist.com here.
Our Rally to #HonorThemAll at the Supreme Court
Our rally took place on February 27, 2019. This section will be updated shortly!
Come support veterans of all faiths and none and the American Humanist Association as we stand for a veterans’ memorial that truly honors every person who has fought and died for our country.
Five years ago, the American Humanist Association and three area residents filed a complaint against the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission challenging the constitutionality of a 40-foot-tall Latin cross that towers over the entrance to Bladensburg, MD. Now, the American Humanist Association will be defending the First Amendment before the Supreme Court.
Lower court rulings, Supreme Court precedent, and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment recognize that using the symbol of a major religion to supposedly honor all veterans of all wars is not only unconstitutional, it fails to accomplish its very mission. Since the American Revolution, governments at every level built thousands of war memorials that are both constitutional and inclusive. These obelisks, pedestals, plaques and other memorials recognize the service of all veterans, regardless of their faith or lack thereof.
There will be music, signs, speakers, and more. Show your nation that you #HonorThemAll and protect the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment!
Thanks to Our Allies!
Thanks to all of the groups who have filed amici curiae supporting our case:
- The Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, Inc. (LINK)
- Military Religious Freedom Foundation and sixteen high-ranking military officials and veterans. (LINK)
- Freedom From Religion Foundation, Center for Inquiry, American Atheists, Inc., Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers, and Secular Coalition of America. (LINK)
- Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, American Jewish Committee, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, General Synod of the United Church of Christ, and Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, as Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. (LINK)
- Religious and Civil Rights Organizations. (LINK)
- Muslim Advocates. (LINK)
- Law Professors. (LINK)
- Historians and Legal Scholars. (LINK)