Bladensburg Peace Cross Survives The Battle
There was cause for joy and relief for Prince George’s County on June 20 as the Supreme Court of the United States ruled the Bladensburg WWI Memorial (Also Known as the Bladensburg Peace Cross Memorial) did not violate the Establishment Clause and could remain where it stands on public land – at the junction of Bladensburg Road, Baltimore Avenue, and Annapolis Road in Bladensburg, MD.
“We are pleased with today’s Supreme Court ruling that the Bladensburg World War I Memorial, also known as the Peace Cross, will be able to remain in place,” said County Executive Alsobrooks in a statement June 20. “This monument is not only a memorial for the sacrifices made by our military members in World War I, but is also a symbol to honor our veterans and all those who have given their lives in service to our County, State, and Nation. We are Prince George’s Proud to have the largest population of military veterans in the state of Maryland, and we are proud that this monument will continue to be a symbol to honor the men and women who have served our Nation.”
Since its dedication ceremony in 1925, this symbol of a cross, which bears the words, "valor," "endurance," "courage," and "devotion" has stood honoring 49 Prince Georgians who gave their lives for their country in WWI.
At the time the memorial was built, the land was privately owned land. In 1961, the land came under the ownership of Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) who were responsible for its care and up-keep.
It is the cross shape design of the memorial that caused the ruling that it was unconstitutional for a state institution to be responsible for a monument that appears as a religious symbol by the U.S. Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va. They contended this representation violated laws separating church and state.
The American Legion and M-NCPPC took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court and the ruling was overturned.
Council Chair Todd M. Turner, and District 5 Council Member Jolene Ivey, joined M-NCPPC Chairman, Elizabeth M. Hewlett, the Prince George’s County Planning Board, and M-NCCPPC General Counsel Adrian Garner for a press conference the day of the Supreme Court ruling.
“The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission is extremely gratified that our legal battle to protect the community’s interest in this historic symbol prevailed. This is a big win for our community and this Nation,” said Elizabeth M. Hewlett, Chairman of M-NCPPC and the Prince George’s County Planning Board. “For more than 90 years, this memorial has stood in the community as reminder of the sacrifices made for our freedom. And no matter what side of the decision is supported, we could never repay or reclaim the lives lost. But we can honor and acknowledge their bravery through service to this community. As stewards of many natural, cultural, and historic resources, the Commission is most proud and honored to preserve and protect our history for future generations…”