Federal Judge Warns Ruling Could Jeopardize War Memorials at Arlington Cemetery

For the past 90 years, the good people of Bladensburg, Maryland have remembered 49 local veterans who lost their lives during World War I with a 40-foot cross.

But that beloved cross could be torn down thanks to a shocking ruling from the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

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The court denied an “en blanc rehearing” of the Bladensburg cross case. That means an October decision by a three-judge Fourth Circuit panel declaring the cross-shaped memorial unconstitutional will stand.

Lawyers from First Liberty Institute and Jones Day warned the court’s decision could jeopardize other memorials in military cemeteries.

“The decision of the three-judge panel sets dangerous precedent for veterans memorials and cemeteries across American, and we cannot allow it to be the final word,” First Liberty’s Hiram Sasser said.

The monument was erected in 1925 with funding from the American Legion, but the state obtained control of the cross and the land in the 1960s. Sasser said the American Legion will take their fight to save the cross to the Supreme Court.

“If this decision stands, other memorials, including those in nearby Arlington Cemetery will be targeted for destruction as well,” Sasser warned.

Judge Paul Niemeyer, echoed First Liberty Institute’s concerns in his dissenting opinion — warning that “it also needlessly puts at risk hundreds of other monuments with similar symbols standing on public grounds across the country.”

Judge Niemeyer specifically cited Arlington National Cemetery, “where crosses of comparable size stand in commemoration of fallen soldiers.”

Judge James Wilkinson issued a blistering dissent accusing those opposing the monument of attacking the dead.

“The dead cannot speak for themselves. But may the living hear their silence. We should take care not to traverse too casually the line that separates us from our ancestors and that will soon enough separate us from our descendants. The present has many good ways of imprinting its values and sensibilities upon society. But to roil needlessly the dead with the controversies of the living does not pay their deeds or their time respect,” he wrote.

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