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Supreme Court to consider whether cross-shaped war memorial violates separation of church, state

U.S. flags are seen near the Mall in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on July 3, 2018. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Supreme Court justices have agreed to accept the case regarding whether a cross-shaped war memorial monument in Maryland violates the separation of church and state.

A federal appeals court in Virginia previously determined the cross memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland, violated the Constitution and “has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion.”

The memorial, also known as the “Peace Cross,” is intended to portray a message of remembrance, not religion, according to those who maintain the monument.

What are the ramifications?

If the appeals court decision stands, it could impact hundreds of similar monuments across the nation. The Maryland monument was established nearly a century ago.

The cross was finished in 1925 and honors 49 local men who served in World War I. Their names are listed on a plaque at the base of the cross, which is also decorated with the symbol of the American Legion. The veterans organization helped raise money to build the monument, which sits about five miles from the Supreme Court.

Arguments in favor of the cross-shaped memorial maintain that long-standing monuments with religious symbolism — and a secular message — do not conflict with the separation of church and state. Supporters also point out that the shape of the cross is similar to grave-shaped markers for soldiers buried in American cemeteries overseas.

What is the background?

In 2014, the American Humanist Association and three local residents filed a lawsuit over the monument. They believe the symbol "discriminates against patriotic soldiers who are not Christian, sending a callous message to non-Christians that Christians are worthy of veneration while they may as well be forgotten,” Fox News reported.

The group has also campaigned to have the Supreme Court hear the case. Their reason is that the appeals court’s ruling only covers the Bladensburg memorial and not other monuments, according to reports.

Arguments for the case are expected to be heard beginning in early 2019.

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