Atheists, backed by Muslims, push for removal of huge cross at Bladensburg war memorial in Maryland

The Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial has stood since 1925(AHA)

A group of atheists is appealing a Maryland court ruling last Nov. 30 that declared the 90-year-old 40-foot cross at the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial is constitutional and does not violate the Establishment Clause under the First Amendment.

The American Humanist Association (AHA), which filed the case against Maryland National Park and Planning Commission in February 2014, filed a notice of appeal with the court on Dec. 28, stating that it would file an appeal with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the ruling.

In its lawsuit, the AHA claimed that the cross represents an endorsement of religion.

"The Bladensburg Cross is an enormous Christian symbol on government property and has the clear effect of endorsing religion," said Monica Miller, senior counsel for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. "We will continue defending the First Amendment rights of our clients as well as all non-Christian service members who are excluded from the government's Latin cross monument."

WND reported that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) joined the AHA in challenging the cross.

The memorial was established in 1925 in Bladensburg in Prince George, Maryland by the American Legion to honour the 49 men in the county who gave up their lives during World War I.

"This veterans memorial has stood in honor of the fallen for almost 100 years and should be allowed to stand for 100 years more," said Noel Francisco, lead counsel for the American Legion. "We stand ready to defend the memorial and the men it honors against this meritless attack."

Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of Liberty Institute, which represented the legion, said "the humanist group is facing an uphill battle on this appeal."

"After a thorough analysis of the facts and the law, the court was clear that the memorial is completely lawful. We are confident the Fourth Circuit will agree and uphold the constitutionality of this historic veterans memorial," she said.

In her ruling, Judge Deborah Chasanow said the location of the cross has a secular purpose and it does not endorse any religion.

She said other courts also "have recognised that displaying a cross to honour fallen soldiers is a legitimately secular purpose."

"Entanglement between church and state becomes constitutionally excessive only when it has the effect of advancing or inhibiting religion," she ruled.