More than 120 people assembled, Saturday, near the "Peace Cross" in Bladensburg, Md., Saturday, in an effort to protect the memorial from a humanist group which wants the "cross" portion removed.
The structure is known locally as the Peace Cross, but, in fact, the 40-foot-tall piece of concrete was built in the 1920's by the American Legion as a memorial to the 49 men of Prince George's County who died in the service of their country during World War One.
The fact that it's a cross -- on government land -- bothers the American Humanist Association. "This country is a diverse one," explained the group's executive director, Roy Speckhardt. "We have Buddhists, we have Hindus, we have non-theists, and we've always had some percentage of our population that were minority religion faiths. So, representing those who have fallen with a monument that is only representative of one faith is just not universal enough."
The humanists have sent a letter to the Maryland National Park and Planning Commission demanding that the cross be removed from the rest of the war memorial.
More than 120 people assembled for part of Saturday to express their support of the nearly 90-year-old structure.
Kathy Davis, one of the organizers, believes the war memorial should remain as it was designed: "It was not put up there as a religious symbol. It was put up there as a memorial to our veterans who died."
American Legion Commander Mike Moore believes the humanists are overly sensitive on the "cross" issue, which he argues is NOT always religious symbolism.
"The Distinguished Air Cross -- is that a religious medal?" asked Moore. "They have the cross-hairs in a sight. Because the word 'cross' is there, is that a religious reference as well?"
The humanist group set a two week deadline for a response to its request that the Peace Cross be removed. There has been no response. Roy Speckhardt says the humanists will now prepare and file a lawsuit to get the cross portion of the memorial removed.
Army veteran Elando Lindsey doesn't like that idea: "Park and Planning needs to turn it back to the American Legion. We'll take care of it."
The humanists say they would have no objection if the cross stood on private land. A decision from the courts on the current Peace Cross location could take a year or two.