March 10, 2019


There is a controversy raging around the existence of a cross that has stood in the Washington suburb of Bladensburg Md.  For nearly 100 years. The cross is part of a monument in memory of those who lost their lives in WW II. It is Peace Cross located on public land in a highway median. The Supreme Court of the United States is now debating whether this cross can remain. It is 40 feet high, built in 1925 and paid for by local families, businesses, and the American Legion.

My information comes from a newspaper article that I read this week. The legal challenge began with the American Humanist Association, a non profit atheist organization that has filed lawsuits through out the country. The main issue seems to be determining which actions or displays violate the Constitution's prohibition against government established religion. Believe it or not, I was thinking about this issue when I heard it on the news before I read the article. In my mind and by my observation, we see many “monuments” which appear by the roadside and on public property as memorials to those who die tragically. In many cases it is the results of a tragic automobile accident and in most situations the cross is a major aspect of the memorial. I have yet to see a cross at a memorial site that has the corpus (body of Christ) on it. I have only witnessed the cross itself and am beginning to realize in many of thesecases it is not a statement for any religion but has just become a sign that a tragedy has taken place. I believe that many who are not Christian or have no religion affiliation have also come to see it this way. I was reinforced in my thinking when the newspaper article stated that “the cross carries an independent secular meaning” for many. The Justices of the Supreme Court are not expected to make the laws, or enforce the laws, but have the responsibility of interpreting the laws. The question becomes can the cross symbolize different things to different people at various times in our history?

When we live in a predominantly Christian nation or a predominantly Catholic neighborhood we can become very parochial and insular. When the human community evolves and welcomes other cultures and belief systems we are then challenged to look again at how we have created our world to reflect our concept of God and our religion.

The Supreme Court is entrusted with hearing all of the arguments for and against. Personally, I respect both sides of the conversation.

Enjoy Life !

Father Coyne


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