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American Legion v. American Humanist Association

Why We Fight:

America should be able to honor its war dead.


Anti-religious groups challenge the right of American communities to honor their war dead with memorials that display the cross because such memorials purportedly constitute the endorsement of religion in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Legal Question:

Whether Maryland’s ownership and maintenance of a 40-foot-tall cross, erected as a memorial to the soldiers who died in World War I, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?


The American Legion; The American Legion Department of Maryland; The American Legion Colmar Manor Post 131; Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission  


American Humanist Association; Steven Lowe; Fred Edwards; Bishop McNeill

Amicus Curiae:

Town of Taos, New Mexico, represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation


Supreme Court of the United States
Completion of briefing and a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States on whether to hear the case.

In Bladensburg, Maryland, a short distance from the Supreme Court of the United States, stands a 40-foot-tall World War I memorial in the shape of a cross constructed in 1925.  The Peace Cross, which commemorates 49 fallen soldiers from Prince George’s County, was built with funding from local families and the American Legion, but the state obtained title to the cross and land in 1961 and has spent at least $117,000 to maintain them.

In 2014, the American Humanist Association challenged the constitutionality of the memorial, by filing a lawsuit against the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.  In November of 2015, a Maryland federal district court upheld the constitutionality of the memorial.  In October of 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (2-1) reversed the ruling.  A petition for rehearing was denied in March of 2018 over a strong dissent.  Petitions for certiorari were filed on June 25 and June 27, 2018.

On July 26, 2018 Mountain States Legal Foundation filed an amicus curiae brief urging that the Court grant the petitions on behalf of the Town of Taos, a small artistic community in northern New Mexico that also has a cross-shaped memorial honoring its veterans and war dead from the Bataan Death March in World War II.  Taos was recently threatened with an Establishment Clause lawsuit over the memorial and seeks to defend its right to honor its heroes as the members of the Taos community wish.

  • Western Town Fights For War Memorial

    Jul 27, 2018
    Taos, New Mexico, which for decades has honored its citizens who gave their lives in service to their country during World War II in the Bataan Death March, today urged the Supreme Court of the United States to hear a case challenging the constitutionality of war memorials that display a cross and rule that such memorials are constitutional.

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