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UPDATE: Humanists Step Up Efforts to DEMOLISH Historic Maryland World War I Veterans Memorial

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May 7, 2015

First Liberty Institute continues defense of 90-year-old veterans memorial on behalf of its client, The American Legion

Until the American Humanist Association filed its lawsuit, the Bladensburg,
Maryland World War I Veterans Memorial stood without objection for almost 90 years.

This week, the American Humanist Association (AHA) filed a motion for summary judgment with the United States District Court for the District of Maryland in its ongoing attack against the Bladensburg, Maryland World War I Veterans Memorial—a 90-year-old veterans memorial in the shape of a cross that honors 49 fallen WWI service men from Prince George’s County, Maryland.

First Liberty Institute is representing The American Legion, which the Court granted the right to intervene, and has joined the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission as a defendant in the matter to protect the historic veterans memorial—which sits in a public area amidst several other memorials commemorating other conflicts in American history and honoring those who served in our armed forces. The Bladensburg, Maryland World War I Veterans Memorial was erected and dedicated in 1925 by a local post of The American Legion.

REMOVE, DEMOLISH OR MAKE THE CROSS A “NON-RELIGIOUS SLAB”

In their motion, the American Humanist Association—one of the most active opponents of religious freedom in the nation, and one First Liberty Institute helped defeat earlier this year in a lawsuit challenging the “under God” wording in the Pledge of Allegiance—asked the Court, among other things, to:

·      Declare that it is a VIOLATION of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment—and the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights—for the government to own, maintain and display the memorial on public property;

·      Order the REMOVAL of the memorial from the property, or that the government DEMOLISHthe memorial entirely or REMOVE THE “ARMS” OF THE MEMORIAL to make it a “non-religious slab or obelisk”;

·      Order the government NOT TO DISPLAY the memorial on public property or take any steps to maintain it at its current location in Bladensburg, Maryland.

“There is no excuse for this attack on a time honored veterans memorial,” says First Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Roger Byron. “We’ll continue to defend this veterans memorial to see that it stands for another hundred years. The men it honors, others who have served, and those in uniform today deserve no less.”

First Liberty Institute plans to submit its response and cross-motion, on behalf of The American Legion, early next month.

A TIMELESS VETERANS MEMORIAL STANDS WITHOUT OBJECTION FOR ALMOST 90 YEARS

One of the oldest World War I memorials in the United States, the Bladensburg, Maryland World War I Veterans Memorial was erected by a local American Legion post and has been used from its inception for patriotic events by The American Legion and others to honor our nation’s veterans. The memorial has stood without objection for almost 90 years.

According to an article by Richard Wilson published in Prince George’s Magazine in 1983, the Memorial Committee formed to raise money for the Memorial included ten mothers who had lost sons in the war. In 1920, Mrs. Martin Redman, the mother of the first sailor from the county to lose his life in World War I, became the treasurer for the committee. In a letter to Senator John Walter Smith, who had donated money for the cause, Mrs. Redman wrote:

“The chief reason I feel so deeply in this matter, my son, M.F. Redman, lost his life in France and because of that I feel that our memorial cross is, in a way, his grave stone.”

Like many other WWI veterans memorials around the world and in Arlington Cemetery, the Bladensburg, Maryland World War I Veterans Memorial uses the shape of a cross. But the American Humanist Association wants the memorial removed, altered or torn down and continues to press its case in court.

In August 2012, the American Humanist Association sent a letter asking the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission to remove the memorial, which stands in the median of an intersection in Bladensburg, Maryland, calling the memorial “unconstitutional” because it uses the shape of a cross.

In February 2014, the American Humanist Association took it a step further and filed an official lawsuit, seeking to have the memorial removed, altered or torn down.

In May 2014, First Liberty Institute filed a motion to intervene in the case on behalf of The American Legion, The American Legion Department of Maryland and The American Legion Colmar Post 131. The United States District Court for the District of Maryland granted the motion to intervene in September 2014.

PRESERVING AMERICA’S RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

The Bladensburg, Maryland World War I Veterans Memorial is just one of many targeted expressions across the nation that are part of America’s heritage, and First Liberty Institute is dedicated to defending it against discriminatory attack.

Whether they be Nativity scenes or menorahs, Ten Commandments displays, or words or symbols on veterans memorials or governmental buildings, expressions that use symbols of our religious heritage are woven into our cultural and social fabric by decades and even centuries of Americans who worked, sacrificed, risked, lived and died in communities where these expressions were, and are still today, a vital element.

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About First Liberty Institute
First Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.FirstLiberty.org.

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