A federal judge in Maryland ruled that a large memorial cross on public land in Bladensburg is constitutional, even though it is a religious symbol, because it has a secular purpose – namely to memorialize fallen soldiers.
The American Humanist Association is considering whether to appeal the ruling, according to this Washington Post report on the ruling.
Confessing that “Establishment Clause jurisprudence is a law professor’s dream, and a trial judge’s nightmare,” the judge emphasized the lack of a religious emphasis in the cross monument’s setting and history in finding it to be a lawful display.
Here is an excerpt from the opinion:
Although the Latin cross is undeniably a religious symbol, “[t]he fact that the monument conveys some religious meaning does not cast doubt on the [government’s] valid secular purposes for its display.” Other courts have recognized that displaying a cross to honor fallen soldiers is a legitimately secular purpose, and does not always promote a religious message.
The Monument’s secular commemorative purpose is reinforced by the plaque, the American Legion’s seal, and the words “valor,” “endurance,” “courage,” and “devotion” written on it. None of these features contains any religious reference. In short, the record amply demonstrates that the construction and maintenance of the Monument “was not an attempt to set the imprimatur of the state on a particular creed. Rather, those who erected the cross intended simply to honor our Nation’s fallen soldiers.”
You can read the opinion here.