By: Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday waded into a new fight over the separation of church and state, agreeing to decide whether a towering cross-shaped war memorial erected in 1925 on public land in Maryland violates the Constitution’s ban on government endorsement of religion.
The justices agreed to hear two separate appeals of a lower court’s ruling that the memorial violated the Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition on the government favoring one religion, saying the memorial – dubbed the “peace cross” – is inherently religious due to its shape like a Christian cross.
The high court will take up appeals brought by a public agency called the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which owns the cross, and the American Legion, a private veterans organization that holds memorial events at the site. The legion is represented by the First Liberty Institute, a conservative religious rights group.