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Supreme Court of the United States

Why This WWI Memorial Might Be Destroyed

By Maureen Collins posted on:
May 26, 2019

Did you know that Memorial Day wasn’t always called “Memorial Day”?

For over a century, May 30th was known as “Decoration Day.” This tradition began after the Civil War, when veterans decorated the graves of their fallen comrades as a way of remembering them and honoring their sacrifice. It wasn’t until it became a federal holiday in 1968 that the official name was changed to Memorial Day and the observance date was changed to the last Monday of May.

Americans would have celebrated Decoration Day in 1925—the same year the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial was built in Prince George County, Maryland.

Gold Star mothers who lost their sons in World War I designed the memorial. The 40-foot stone cross is modeled after the tomb stones erected in the European battlefields where American soldiers died protecting our freedom.

Nearly a century later, we no longer call our day honoring fallen U.S. soldiers “Decoration Day.” And almost 100 years after it was built, the Bladensburg Peace Cross, as it is commonly known, is at risk of being torn down.

The cross, originally built on private land and funded by private donors, now stands on public land in the middle of a busy intersection. Because of its shape, the American Humanist Association (AHA) wants it removed. It claims a cross-shaped memorial in a public space is a violation of the “separation of church and state.”

The AHA argues that the mere sight of a cross-shaped memorial offends people of other faiths. But the First Amendment doesn’t exist to protect you from seeing displays of others. It exists to protect every American’s right to freely live out their faith. The men who are honored by the Bladensburg Peace Cross died for this freedom.

Now, the United States Supreme Court will decide whether the monument stands… or is destroyed.

Last December, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a friend-of-the-court brief, asking the Court to allow the monument to stand. “[E]xisting memorials are undisturbed and protected as public monuments to venerate the honor, valor, and sacrifice of those who have died in service to this country,” the brief argues.

The brief also notes that “[r]emoving the Bladensburg Memorial would not further [AHA’s] religious liberty. It would only show disrespect for the brave servicemembers the cross was meant to honor.”

This Memorial Day, as we honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, let us remember those honored by the Bladensburg Peace Cross. And let’s pray that this monument will stand for another hundred years and more.


Maureen Collins

Maureen Collins

Digital Cultivation Manager

Maureen Collins serves as the Digital Cultivation Manager at Alliance Defending Freedom.


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