On Thursday, in a 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Peace Cross war memorial erected on public land in Prince George’s County, Maryland would be allowed to stand as is.
The decision comes after residents of the county and the American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit demanding the cross be taken down, claiming it was a violation of the Establishment Clause and a disregard of separation of church and state.
The cross was first dedicated in 1925 to honor 49 local soldiers who had lost their lives in WWI.
"The American Humanist Association, a nonprofit that promotes the separation of church and state, sent a letter to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in 2012 asking that the cross be replaced ‘with something more appropriate and universal,'" according to the Huffington Post.
With the cross left standing, the Humanist Association decided to file an official lawsuit two years later.
The Supreme Court on Thursday found that the cross was not religious in nature.
As Fox News reports, "The 7-2 majority on Thursday cited the structure's historical nature in its narrowly drawn decision, saying the Latin cross design reflected the nationwide trend at the time it was erected to honor war dead with community monuments."
In the majority decision written by Justice Samuel Alito upholding the cross as a "prominent community landmark," it says,
For nearly a century, the Bladensburg Cross has expressed the community’s grief at the loss of the young men who perished, its thanks for their sacrifice, and its dedication to the ideals for which they fought… It has become a prominent community landmark, and its removal or radical alteration at this date would be seen by many not as a neutral act but as the manifestation of 'a hostility toward religion that has no place in our Establishment Clause traditions.'
The court's decision reverses the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that the cross was unconstitutional and marks a huge win for religious liberty advocates.