CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is leading a group of 30 states in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a case regarding a historic cross honoring World War I veterans, a matter he says has much broader implications for the First Amendment.
The coalition’s friend of the court brief, filed last week, seeks to protect veterans memorials that include religious symbolism by urging justices to overturn a lower court’s ruling that one such memorial violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“We owe a great deal of gratitude to the brave men and women who sacrificed everything for our country," Morrisey said. “Honoring their sacrifice with memorials that include religious symbols does not violate the U.S. Constitution and is one of many freedoms these men and women fought to preserve.”
The case involves a nearly century-old memorial cross in Bladensburg, Maryland, whose construction was started by community members and mothers whose sons died in World War I, and finished by the American Legion. The initial lawsuit seeks to force the state of Maryland to tear down the historic cross.
Morrisey says the Supreme Court’s ultimate decision could impact memorials across the nation, including those at Arlington National Cemetery and the West Virginia State Capitol.
“The 13,000 combat veterans of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of West Virginia fully supports the West Virginia Attorney General’s urge to protect the memorial cross honoring World War I veterans in Bladensburg, Maryland,” said Kevin Light, a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in West Virginia. “This memorial is a vital, historical depiction to educate the public on the many sacrifices the brave men and women who sacrificed their life to protect the freedom and rights the American public have today for the past 100 years.”
West Virginia led the brief with support from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
U.S. Supreme Court case numbers 17-1717 and 18-0018