Attorneys have requested a rehearing for a case involving a veterans memorial that atheists have claimed is unconstitutional because of its Christian imagery.
In a 2–1 ruling last month, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit declared that the World War I Veterans Memorial in Bladensburg, Virginia, unconstitutional.
The 90-year-old and 40-foot-tall memorial is in the shape of a cross – something the Circuit considers a government endorsement of religion. The memorial is maintained with public funds.
First Liberty Institute and the Jones Day law firm have filed a petition for a rehearing en banc on behalf of The American Legion in the lawsuit.
"The decision of the Fourth Circuit sets dangerous precedent, and it threatens the removal and destruction of veterans' memorials across the United States," argued First Liberty attorney Roger Byron. "If this memorial has to come down, then there is nothing to protect the countless other memorials across the country to our nation's veterans that happen to use religious imagery – whether that would be tearing down the countless other memorials across the country to our nation's veterans that happen to use religious imagery, whether that would be tearing down the Argonne Cross in Arlington National Cemetery, or sandblasting the word ‘God’ from the tomb of the unknown soldier."
First Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford asserts that memorials are living reminders of our country's history and the cost of war.
"How will we remember the fallen or teach the next generation about service and sacrifice if we start bulldozing veterans' memorials and cemeteries across America?" the conservative legal expert posed. "We will continue our work to overturn this decision and defend the memory of those who preserved our freedom."
The Fourth Circuit has complete discretion on whether to grant a rehearing in the lawsuit. First Liberty hopes to hear back in this month on whether its petition has been granted.
American Legion Lead Counsel Michael Carvin, who is also a partner at Jones Day, stressed the magnitude of the lawsuit’s outcome.
"This is a case of exceptional importance that threatens memorials nationwide," Carvin pointed out. "We are hopeful the Fourth Circuit will recognize the significance of this case and the necessity of en banc review."