By Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether a 40-foot cross in the median of a busy suburban Maryland highway is a secular memorial to those who died during World War I or an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.
The Peace Cross, made of granite and cement, was built in 1925 as a tribute to local men who died during World War I. It was paid for by local families, businesses and the American Legion. But the giant cross sits on a piece of land that has been owned since 1961 by a state commission that pays for its maintenance and upkeep.
The challenge to the 93-year-old cross began with the American Humanist Association, a nonprofit atheist organization that has filed similar lawsuits throughout the country. In September, the group won a similar case in which it sought the removal of a 34-foot-tall cross displayed in a city-owned park in Florida.
The high court has sent mixed messages when it comes to public displays of religion, allowing some monuments with religious content to stand while rejecting others.
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