Press Release

ADL to Supreme Court: WWI Veterans Memorial Dominated by 40-Foot Cross is Exclusionary and Unconstitutional

New York, NY, January 31, 2019 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) joined a broad coalition of religious and civil rights organizations in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to find that a 40-foot memorial cross dominating a veterans’ memorial on Maryland government property violates constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

In an amicus brief co-filed with Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) in American Legion v. American Humanist Association, the organizations argue that the display of a towering cross within a World War I memorial located at a high-traffic intersection on Maryland state government property constitutes unconstitutional religious preference for one faith over all others.

“A state-sponsored, 40-foot memorial cross, whether intentionally or not, sends a message of religious exclusion and secondary status to Jews and other minority faiths,” said John B. Harris, a New York-based attorney and ADL’s Civil Rights Chair. “When government honors those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, it should recognize them equally without favoring one religion over others. This memorial wrongly conveys that the cross represents all soldiers who died for their country, which is both inaccurate and hurtful to the families and descendants of fallen non-Christian soldiers.”

The cross is located on a traffic island at a busy intersection in Bladensburg, Maryland.  Its base contains a now obscured plaque reciting the names of local soldiers who died during World War I.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the memorial violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.