In 1925 a group of people erected a cross in Bladensburg, Maryland to honor 49 local men who died in World War 1. In 1961 the state bought the land and since that time it has maintained it, including the Bladensburg cross. Recently there have been court challenges to allowing a cross on public land.
During the first week of July 2019, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the cross could stay even though it was on public land. This decision is not really a victory for those who want Christian symbols on public land. The justification for the Court allowing the Bladensburg cross to remain is that it had taken on a secular meaning as a memorial, and was no longer a Christian symbol.
It should be evident that this ruling by the Supreme Court would not apply to most situations since most crosses are not part of a secular memorial. Religious people tend to twist the descriptions of their symbols to get around the law. When the Catholic Church objected to using the King James Bible in public schools, people who were pushing for the study of the Bible changed its classification to literature rather than religion.
The ancient Assyrian army would drive a stake into the chest of their enemies impaling them. Then they would plant that stake in the ground to display their victim. They did this both to frighten and to intimidate those who would oppose them.
The ancient Romans further refined this gruesome tactic. Instead of impaling their victims on a stake, they nailed them to the stake. Impaling resulted in quick death, but crucifixion extended the horror. Crucifixion was slow and agonizing torture that sometimes lasted more than a day. It’s from this execution method that we get our word “excruciating”–which literally means “from the cross.” Crucifixions took place in public where people could see the victim and become terrified to go against the Roman government. This torture was used for the worst of criminals.