FFRF files brief against giant Maryland cross

1bladensburgThe Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed an amicus brief in favor of an American Humanist Association challenge to a giant cross in the middle of a public roadway in Maryland.

A district court said the cross, in Bladensburg, Md., was constitutional, so the AHA appealed the case to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. FFRF filed the “friend of the court” brief on March 7 jointly with the Center For Inquiry.

The brief argues that the case is about whether a 40-foot Latin cross, the instantly recognizable symbol of Christianity, appears to endorse religion as it looms prominent and alone at a busy intersection. It’s claimed to be a memorial to World War I veterans. The district court minimized the Christian message that the massive symbol conveys to erroneously conclude that it does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The Bladensburg cross is a massive Latin cross whose prominent size and display on government property underscores its Christian message, the brief argues. It is 40 feet tall, visible from all angles, and the most readily identifiable display in its government-owned surroundings. “It is without a doubt a religious symbol that cannot survive constitutional scrutiny,” FFRF contends.

“The Foundation staunchly opposes religious displays that give the appearance of religious endorsement by the United States military,” says the organization. “Many of the Foundation’s founding members, when the group went national in 1978, were World War II veterans and some of its earliest members were World War I veterans. The actions in this case continue to demonstrate government favoritism toward Christianity over all other faiths and religion over nonreligion.”

AHA filed its appellate brief on Feb. 29.

“The Bladensburg cross has the clear effect of endorsing religion, violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” AHA says in a press release. “By maintaining, renovating and funding the Christian cross, the government is also unconstitutionally entangled with religion.”

FFRF thanks Law Clerk Seth Wrinkle for researching and drafting its brief. FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott, FFRF Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler and CFI Legal Director Nick Little also worked on the brief.

“The case involves blatant government endorsement of religion,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The lower court handed down a wrong decision, and we’re confident we’ll get it reversed.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a state/church watchdog organization with 23,000 nonreligious members nationwide, including more than 400 in Maryland.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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