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.
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.