FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 2, 2017
Contact: Andrea Davey, Public Affairs Officer, 301-952-4314
Anika Jackson, Principal Public Affairs Specialist, 301-952-4584
M-NCPPC PETITIONS FOR REHEARING OF
COURT DECISION REGARDING
“PEACE CROSS” WORLD WAR I VETERANS MEMORIAL
Upper Marlboro, Maryland – The Prince George’s County Planning Board of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) today announced that M-NCPPC has filed a petition with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for a rehearing en banc (a rehearing by all judges on the Court) of a decision regarding the “Peace Cross” World War I Veterans Memorial, located on M-NCPPC-owned land in Bladensburg, Maryland.
Nearly a century ago, private citizens built the memorial to honor soldiers of Prince George's County who died while serving and defending the United States in World War I; the names of 49 of these soldiers are engraved on the base. The Memorial is located in an area known as “Veterans Memorial Park” and is surrounded by several other monuments to those who died in the nation’s conflicts, including World War II, Pearl Harbor, Korea-Vietnam, September 11, and the Battle of Bladensburg.
In a 2-1 ruling on October 18, the Court declared the cross-shaped monument an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion that should be removed from public land. Last night, the M-NCPPC filed a legal appeal supporting the nature of the memorial and challenging the Court’s claim that it violates the distinction between church and state because it is in the shape of a cross.
In explaining to the Court why they should reconsider their opinion, M-NCPPC in its appeal stressed that the monument is not used for religious purposes nor was it designed to further a certain religious belief. Rather, the memorial has stood at its present location for over 90 years as a historical reminder of the ultimate sacrifice countless soldiers have made to preserve our country's democracy and sacred values.
“Maintaining this monument, as well as the other monuments in the memorial park surrounding it, is in keeping with the Commission’s legislatively designated mission and role as stewards of our local history,” said Planning Board Chairman Elizabeth M. Hewlett. “In deciding whether to reconsider their previous decision, we hope that the Court will revisit the fact that M-NCPPC assumed ownership of this World War I Memorial sixty years ago with the express secular purpose of maintaining safety of the site near a busy highway intersection and preserving a monument commemorating a highly significant chapter in our nation’s and our County’s history.“