- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A humanist group filed a federal lawsuit last week to tear down the Bladensburg Peace Cross, a World War I memorial that honors the 49 Prince George’s County, Md., residents who died serving their country.

The 40-foot-tall memorial stands in a median at the busy intersection between Baltimore Avenue and Annapolis Road. It is lit every night, the New York Daily News reported.

The American Humanist Association says in the lawsuit against the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission that the Christian symbol violates the separation of church and state and the First Amendment. They are demanding the cross be removed from government-owned property.

“To any passerby, a huge cross such as this can only be understood as endorsing Christianity,” David Niose, legal director at Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said in a press release. “On public property, that violates the Establishment Clause. We can all support memorials to those who have fought for our country, but they cannot take the form of a massive religious symbol on government property.”

The lawsuit names the American Humanist Association, Steven Lowe, Fred Edwords and Bishop McNeill as the plaintiffs.

Mr. Lowe says he was shocked the first time he saw the cross and gets upset every time he drives by it.

“He believes that the Bladensburg Cross associates a Christian religious symbol with the state and gives the impression that the state supports and approves of Christianity, as opposed to other religions, and that the state may even prefer Christians and Christianity over other religions,” the complaint says. “As a non-Christian, Mr. Lowe is personally offended and feels excluded by this governmental message.”

Town administrator John E. Moss said that the Bladensburg Cross has “historic and patriotic” significance to the county and does not endorse any particular religion.

“The cross memorializes our veterans,” he said. “It was never meant to be a religious icon.”

Kira Calm Lewis, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission spokesperson, confirmed to a local ABC News affiliate that there are no plans to remove the cross.

The Park and Planning Commission has 60 days to respond to the lawsuit, and both sides are saying they are ready to fight.

Founded in 1941 and headquartered in D.C., the American Humanist Association advocates for humanists, atheists and other non-religious Americans, the group said in a press release.

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