Atheist group asks court to order removal of WWI 'Peace Cross' memorial in Maryland
Peace Cross

An atheist group asked a federal court Tuesday to order the removal of a World War I memorial described in a lawsuit as a “massive Christian cross.”

The 40-foot Peace Cross memorial has stood for nearly 90 years at a busy crossroads in Bladensburg, Maryland, to commemorate the 49 men from Prince George’s County who died while fighting in the war.

But the Washington, D.C.-based American Humanist Association said the religious-themed display does not belong on government-owned property.

“I know if I lived in that town and my two daughters saw that and said, 'Why is it that government supports Christianity? We're not Christian, right?'” said Roy Speckhardt, the organization’s executive director. “You know, there's something inherently wrong with that. It sends the signal that not all of us are equal Americans."

The group’s suit, which was joined by several individual plaintiffs, asks the Maryland National Capital Area Park and Planning Commission to remove the display.

The park commission has not responded directly to the lawsuit, but a spokeswoman for the agency said the cross is a war monument, not a religious display.

"The Peace Cross was originally -- and always -- intended to be a secular memorial to the veterans of World War I,” said commission spokeswoman Kira Calm Lewis. “It does have plaques and inscriptions on it that serve that purpose, but there is no religious language on the cross whatsoever."

The regional commission has 60 days to respond to the lawsuit.

Watch this video report posted online by WTTG-TV: