MRFF Joins Lawsuit Against Memorial Cross

The Bladensburg Cross, ca 1920-1950.

In what is presumably an effort to prove that it is not “anti-Christian,” Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s MRFF has joined a lawsuit (PDF) with the American Humanist Association demanding the removal of the Bladensburg, MD, “Peace Cross.” The Peace Cross was erected in 1925 by the American Legion.  Weinstein says (PDF)

The Bladensburg Cross is a Christian symbol on government property…

Because the Bladensburg Cross is a Christian symbol, it sends a message to all of our non-Christian MRFF clients that they are outsiders and unwelcome in the Town of Bladensburg. This message is particularly harmful in the context of a war memorial. It sends a clear signal to all our non-Christian veterans that they are not worthy of being remembered. It sends a clear signal to all the mothers and fathers of non-Christian service members that their sons and daughters are less important than those Christian service members.

That argument is, of course, complete nonsense. For centuries, the cross was recognized as a marker or memorial for the dead, apart even from any specific Christian connotation.  For decades, the cross has been used on military memorials — and not because of anything “Christian.” Even if it does specifically call out Christian symbology, though, neither the Constitution nor any law requires that the government bulldoze a memorial only because it has religious symbology in it.

Still, Weinstein has joined in the effort to destroy the cross. The lawsuit seeks to require the city to [emphasis added]

remove the Bladensburg Cross from the Property forthwith; or in the alternative, demolish the Bladensburg Cross or remove the arms of the Bladensburg Cross to form a non-religious slab or obelisk forthwith.

To be clear, the legal premise upon with these groups are calling is the US Constitution, whose First Amendment begins

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

According to some, the First Amendment apparently requires sawing the arms off crosses to make them “non-religious slabs.”

While the “Bladensburg Cross” carries no particular emotion with it for most people in the country (though it does memorialize 49 locals who died in the Great War), there is another cross that does, and which would be ultimately affected by this same case.

The Argonne Cross stands in Arlington National Cemetery, erected in 1921 — just prior to the Bladensburg Cross.

The Argonne Cross overlooks Arlington National Cemetery.

Think Mikey Weinstein will demand the US government turn the Argonne Cross into an Argonne Obelisk? That is so controversial even the ACLU won’t touch it (though former military atheist Jason Torpy has).

Unfortunately, an effort to scrub just those kinds of symbols has been ongoing for several years, led primarily by the Freedom From Religion Foundation — an organization that is, ironically enough, often confused with Weinstein’s MRFF. It would seem the confusion is now more understandable, as their goals seem to be quite well aligned.

Those efforts have inspired several movements to protect these war memorials, including proposed Federal legislation.

For Weinstein, nothing says “religious freedom” like tearing down war memorials.