- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 8, 2018


2019 will mark the 100th anniversary of the convening of the Paris Peace Conference, which formally ended World War I.

And the Peace Cross is a memorial that today stands at a crossroads in Bladensburg, which lost scores of residents during the “war to end all wars.”

On Monday, we observe Veterans Day, which honors all those — living and dead — who have served in our armed forces.

Day by day, we lose our military veterans. My question to you is: Will we lose the Peace Cross, too?

The question is one the U.S. Supreme Court is considering because an organization named the American Humanist Association claims that the Peace Cross violates the U.S. Constitution because government funds are used for its upkeep.

The organization wants the symbol demolished or removed.

Here’s what the Constitution says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof “

In short, that means you have the right to take religion in whole or in part, or to not take any part of it.

Yay for “free exercise.”

Now that the high court has agreed to hear arguments regarding the Peace Cross, several other questions arise.

The maintenance of the Peace Cross falls under the auspices of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

What happens if the justices side with the humanist group? Would it be a stretch to presume the group also would seek similar relief at, say, Arlington National Cemetery, where crosses reflect a personal or familial preference not Uncle Sam’s?

And in California, would blushing brides be forbidden from using the Army’s Presidio Chapel, lest humanists or atheists be offended?

And who, for heaven’s sake, would side with humanist and atheist litigants who do not understand the phrase “free exercise?” Would it not be a true misfortune if the justices sided in favor of their claim?

An open-ended ruling could mean bye bye Navy Cross. Bye bye Army Cross. Bye bye Air Force Cross. Bye bye Coast Guard Cross.

(My dad served overseas in the Army during World War II and continued to serve as an illustrator with the Army’s Institute of Heraldry in Virginia. So, yes, I’m personally vested in the justices’ interest.)

What would be a far wider and deeper affront is that the all American veterans would be dishonored if the Peace Cross was destroyed.

We must not destroy, remove or hide memorials that symbolize America every time someone feels offended or slighted.

Some people are offended that Abraham Lincoln freed America’s slaves. Will we bow if they litigate that the National Mall be ripped apart to remove the Lincoln Memorial?

The U.S. Constitution is no mere parchment inked with words, and let’s hope the justices and most Americans understand as much.

Neither are America’s servicewomen and men toy soldiers or bloodthirsty villains.

And when it comes to fighting the good fight, remember that the Peace Cross was erected to remind us all, humanists included, that the troops in World War I led to an armistice — a cease-fire, a suspension of fighting, a truce, a treaty — signed at the Paris Peace Conference. It is called the Treaty of Versailles.

Know, too, that the Peace Cross honors what seems to be ever elusive around the globe — peace.

If that memorial is indeed offensive to Americans’ sensibilities, then we’re in deeper trouble than we think we are — warring among ourselves about a memorial.

Thankfully, the members of our armed forces and memorials like the Peace Cross stand in the breach.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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