Bladensburg holds Memorial Day ceremony amid Peace Cross controversy

BLADENSBURG — The town of Bladensburg, Maryland, on Monday held its first Memorial Day ceremony since a federal appeals court declared the town’s World War I Memorial Cross violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

The ceremony honoring fallen service members of Prince George’s County is typically held at the memorial that’s known as the Peace Cross, which was built in 1925, but it was moved because of rain to Bladensburg Town Hall. At the gathering, the county executive said he’d work to preserve the cross, which is the subject of a legal appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I want you to know that we will do everything we can,” Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III said.

“We are going to win this lawsuit,” Renee Green said. She’s the executive producer of the “Save The Peace Cross” documentary she said is currently being produced.

Green argues that the Peace Cross has historic value — it was accepted into the National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 8, 2015. She said it should be protected as a work of art because it was designed by a famous architect — John J. Early, who used a unique concrete casting method to create it.

The American Humanist Association and others filed the lawsuit in 2014 to have the Peace Cross removed. It’s on property owned by the State of Maryland, and the suit argues that it’s religious in nature and a Christian symbol that infringed on their First Amendment rights.

Moved inside because of rain, the Memorial Day ceremony sponsored by American Legion Colmar Manor Post 131 and the Town of Bladensburg Patriotic Committee typically is held outside at the Peace Cross Memorial.  (WTOP/Kristi King)
The Memorial Day ceremony, sponsored by the American Legion Colmar Manor Post 131 and the Town of Bladensburg Patriotic Committee, typically is held outside at the Peace Cross Memorial, but was moved inside because of rain. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Quartermaster for VFW Post 341 of Bladensburg William McCreary and Senior Vice Commander of Anthony Rich of VFW Post 341. "Freedom is not always free," Rich said. "And, we will always remember those who have gone before us." (WTOP/Kristi King)
Quartermaster William McCreary and Senior Vice Commander of Anthony Rich of VFW Post 341 of Bladensburg. “Freedom is not always free,” Rich said. “And we will always remember those who have gone before us.” (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
“This is one of our favorite things to do, is honor our patriots,” said Frances Notley, with the Toaping Castle chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Veterans of many wars attended the Memorial Day ceremony in Bladensburg. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Renee Green, on left, is creating a “Save The Peace Cross” documentary. She worked to get the Peace Cross accepted into the National Register of Historic Places — a designation that was granted on Sept. 8, 2015. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
The Peace Cross honoring the county's fallen from World War I was erected in 1925 and sits in Bladensburg, Maryland. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The Peace Cross, honoring Prince George’s County’s fallen from World War I, was erected in 1925. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
The Peace Cross honoring Prince George's County fallen from World War I was erected in 1925. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The Peace Cross honoring Prince George’s County fallen from World War I was erected in 1925. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
(1/9)
Moved inside because of rain, the Memorial Day ceremony sponsored by American Legion Colmar Manor Post 131 and the Town of Bladensburg Patriotic Committee typically is held outside at the Peace Cross Memorial.  (WTOP/Kristi King)
Quartermaster for VFW Post 341 of Bladensburg William McCreary and Senior Vice Commander of Anthony Rich of VFW Post 341. "Freedom is not always free," Rich said. "And, we will always remember those who have gone before us." (WTOP/Kristi King)
The Peace Cross honoring the county's fallen from World War I was erected in 1925 and sits in Bladensburg, Maryland. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The Peace Cross honoring Prince George's County fallen from World War I was erected in 1925. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Frances Notley, of the Toaping Castle chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, said her group’s historic preservation committee has explored the issue, and says, “There is another way, if all else fails.”

If legal rulings determine the cross should be removed, she said, one idea for saving it would be to remove it from government hands by ceding or selling it to a private organization.


Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2018 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up