The debate on the role that religion plays in state and national politics has been contested for decades, and now the debate has shifted to potentially religious monuments on public land.

The monument in question this time is a concrete cross in a Maryland suburb. This monument has been in place for more than 90 years, but people are just now having issues with it. The big concrete cross is meant to honor the 49 servicemen who died in World War I. It could also be argued that the memorial mirrors cross-shaped markers on the graves of American servicemen overseas. The main takeaway from this debate should be that if the state does decide to take it down, it would be in direct violation to the Freedom of Religion in the Constitution.

One compelling argument on the topic of potentially religious monuments comes from the Trump administration. They claim that just because the Constitution prohibits an establishment of religion, it doesn’t prohibit the acknowledgement of religion in everyday life. Just because a religious monument is on publicly owned land doesn’t mean that it’s trying to convert everyone who sees it to that religion, so monuments like these walk the fine line between the prohibition of the establishment of religion and the freedom of religion in the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has had trouble taking a stance on this issue in the past. The Court still stands by “In God We Trust” appearing on our currency and the phrase “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, but discourages displays of the Ten Commandments in courthouses. This shows that the line between church and state is still blurred, which is reflected by the monument debate.

If a cross honoring fallen soldiers is going to be examined so thoroughly, then other, more controversial religious monuments and their placement on political grounds need to be discussed. The issue with Ten Commandments monuments on public ground has been mentioned in other states before, like the Ten Commandments monument outside the Oklahoma Capitol that was quietly taken down overnight in 2015. In a more recent development, a Ten Commandments monument was placed outside of the Arkansas State Capitol as well as a Baphomet statue from the Satanic Temple in protest of it. If both of these controversial statues are allowed to stand side by side on Capitol grounds, then a cross honoring veterans shouldn’t be the first issue on people’s minds.

Other non-religious monuments just in the United States have been more controversial over the years. Mount Rushmore became a topic of debate in the Supreme Court case United States vs. Sioux Nation of Indians because the monument is located on Sioux land. Gutzon Borglum, the designer of Mount Rushmore, had sympathetic connections with the Ku Klux Klan. Just this past year and closer to home, a monument honoring Gen. Robert E. Lee was removed from the Dixie Highway in Franklin, Ohio, following violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

All monuments can potentially offend anyone who looks at it. Monuments are still a reflection of a significant part of history and tearing them down doesn’t make that history go away. Rather, monuments, especially ones that are decades old, should be educational tools for new generations and a reminder to be more considerate in the future.

Charlotte Caldwell is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Charlotte? Email her at cc670717@ohio.edu

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