MARYLAND

Bladensburg residents argue over WWI memorial

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BLADENSBURG, Md. (WJLA) - Whenever Steve Lowe drives his gold Prius past the iconic Bladensburg Peace Cross, it hits him.

A year-and-a-half ago, Atheists demanded the nearly 100-year-old memorial to local World War I veterans be removed because it’s on public land.

Owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, it’s still there.

So this week, the American Humanist Association sued in federal court, alleging that the Peace Cross violates church-state separation and citing people who are “personally offended” for being forced to have unwelcome contact with the cross due to its location. They argue that it amounts to “governmental promotion of religion.”

"There are other memorials to other wars nearby, but this particular 40-foot- tall cross is hard to miss," says opponent Steve Lowe."

The Park and Planning Commission tells ABC7 it has not yet been served the complaint, so it can't comment on it. But it also says that this peace cross has always been a tribute to war heroes – and nothing more.

Kira Calm Lewis, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission spokesperson confirms that there are no plans at this point to remove it.

Nor should it be removed, many say. At the American Legion Post nearby, Dale Weber says it’s not just vets who are up in arms, but he takes it personally himself:

“I mean, to me, it's like they're slapping the veterans in the face. I mean, that's a tribute to the veterans, and for some reason, I have no idea what they have against veterans. I mean, if it wasn't for us veterans they wouldn't have the right to do what they're trying to do."

The Park and Planning Commission has 60 days to respond to the lawsuit, and both sides are saying they are ready to fight.

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