Peace Cross is Vet­er­ans Day, World War I re­minder

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS Deb­o­rah Sim­mons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

2 019 will mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the con­ven­ing of the Paris Peace Con­fer­ence, which for­mally ended World War I. And the Peace Cross is a me­mo­rial that to­day stands at a cross­roads in Bladens­burg, which lost scores of res­i­dents dur­ing the “war to end all wars.”

On Mon­day, we ob­serve Vet­er­ans Day, which honors all those — liv­ing and dead

— who have served in our armed forces.

Day by day, we lose our mil­i­tary vet­er­ans. My ques­tion to you is: Will we lose the Peace Cross, too?

The ques­tion is one the U.S. Supreme Court is con­sid­er­ing be­cause an or­ga­ni­za­tion named the Amer­i­can Hu­man­ist As­so­ci­a­tion claims that the Peace Cross vi­o­lates the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion be­cause gov­ern­ment funds are used for its up­keep.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion wants the sym­bol de­mol­ished or re­moved.

Here’s what the Con­sti­tu­tion says: “Congress shall make no law re­spect­ing an es­tab­lish­ment of re­li­gion, or pro­hibit­ing the free ex­er­cise thereof …”

In short, that means you have the right to take re­li­gion in whole or in part, or to not take any part of it.

Yay for “free ex­er­cise.” Now that the high court has agreed to hear ar­gu­ments re­gard­ing the Peace Cross, sev­eral other ques­tions arise.

The main­te­nance of the Peace Cross falls un­der the aus­pices of the Mary­land Na­tional Cap­i­tal Park and Plan­ning Com­mis­sion.

What hap­pens if the jus­tices side with the hu­man­ist group? Would it be a stretch to pre­sume the group also would seek sim­i­lar re­lief at, say, Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery, where crosses re­flect a per­sonal or fa­mil­ial pref­er­ence not Un­cle Sam’s?

And in Cal­i­for­nia, would blush­ing brides be for­bid­den from us­ing the Army’s Pre­sidio Chapel, lest hu­man­ists or athe­ists be of­fended?

And who, for heaven’s sake, would side with hu­man­ist and athe­ist lit­i­gants who do not un­der­stand the phrase “free ex­er­cise?” Would it not be a true mis­for­tune if the jus­tices sided in fa­vor of their claim?

An open-ended rul­ing could mean bye bye Navy Cross. Bye bye Army Cross. Bye bye Air Force Cross. Bye bye Coast Guard Cross.

(My dad served over­seas in the Army dur­ing World War II and con­tin­ued to serve as an il­lus­tra­tor with the Army’s In­sti­tute of Her­aldry in Vir­ginia. So, yes, I’m per­son­ally vested in the jus­tices’ in­ter­est.)

What would be a far wider and deeper af­front is that the all Amer­i­can vet­er­ans would be dis­hon­ored if the Peace Cross was de­stroyed.

We must not de­stroy, re­move or hide memo­ri­als that sym­bol­ize Amer­ica ev­ery time some­one feels of­fended or slighted.

Some peo­ple are of­fended that Abra­ham Lin­coln freed Amer­ica’s slaves. Will we bow if they lit­i­gate that the Na­tional Mall be ripped apart to re­move the Lin­coln Me­mo­rial?

The U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion is no mere parch­ment inked with words, and let’s hope the jus­tices and most Amer­i­cans un­der­stand as much.

Nei­ther are Amer­ica’s ser­vice­women and men toy sol­diers or blood­thirsty vil­lains.

And when it comes to fight­ing the good fight, re­mem­ber that the Peace Cross was erected to re­mind us all, hu­man­ists in­cluded, that the troops in World War I led to an armistice — a cease-fire, a sus­pen­sion of fight­ing, a truce, a treaty — signed at the Paris Peace Con­fer­ence. It is called the Treaty of Ver­sailles.

Know, too, that the Peace Cross honors what seems to be ever elu­sive around the globe — peace.

If that me­mo­rial is in­deed of­fen­sive to Amer­i­cans’ sen­si­bil­i­ties, then we’re in deeper trou­ble than we think we are — war­ring among our­selves about a me­mo­rial.

Thank­fully, the mem­bers of our armed forces and memo­ri­als like the Peace Cross stand in the breach.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Peace Cross is a me­mo­rial in Bladens­burg, Mary­land, which lost scores of res­i­dents in World War I.

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