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The Latest: Court seems open to allowing 40-foot cross

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Visitors walk around the 40-foot Maryland Peace Cross dedicated to World War I soldiers on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019 in Bladensburg, Md. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Supreme Court arguments in the cross case (all times local):

11:45 a.m.

The Supreme Court seems inclined to rule that a 40-foot-tall cross that stands on public land in Maryland is constitutional, but shy away from a sweeping ruling.

The high court on Wednesday heard over an hour of arguments in the case about the World War I memorial sometimes referred to as the "Peace Cross." Conservative justices as well as at least two liberal justices seemed to suggest that the nearly 100-year-old memorial doesn't run afoul of the First Amendment's establishment clause, which prohibits the government from favoring one religion over others. The justices seemed inclined to find that the age of the monument and the cross' special connection to World War I as a symbol associated with war dead made it acceptable.

The memorial stands on a grassy highway median in Bladensburg, Maryland, just outside Washington.

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11 a.m.

The Supreme Court is sounding as though it will allow a 40-foot cross-shaped war memorial to remain on public land in Maryland, but shy away from a sweeping ruling.

Arguments are underway in a closely watched case about the place of religious symbols in public life. The nearly 100-year-old cross was built as a memorial to area residents who died in World War I.

Some of the liberal justices suggested in their questioning of lawyers defending the cross that they could join a narrow ruling upholding its display, even though they talked about the cross as a major symbol of Christianity.

The bigger question might be whether there are enough votes to rule in a way that would allow governments to erect more religious symbols on public property.

Several conservative justices sounded skeptical of the broadest approach, advocated by the lawyer for the American Legion. The veterans' organization raised money for the cross and completed it in 1925.

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1:30 a.m.

A World War I memorial that's in the shape of a cross is at the center of a case at the Supreme Court.

The high court on Wednesday is hearing arguments about whether the 40-foot-tall cross on public land in Maryland is constitutional. Its defenders say the case could impact hundreds of monuments nationwide.

The American Legion is one of the cross' defenders. The veterans' organization raised money for the cross and completed it in 1925.

Maryland officials are also defending the cross. They oversee the cross' location and argue that it doesn't violate the Constitution because it has a secular purpose and meaning.

The cross' challengers argue that its location on public land violates the First Amendment's establishment clause, which prohibits the government from favoring one religion over others.

A cross, erected in memory of Fray Juan de Padilla, stands along US56 near Lyons, Kan., Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. The cross was a gift to the State of Kansas by the Knights of Columbus in 1950. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Visitors walk around the 40-foot Maryland Peace Cross dedicated to World War I soldiers on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019 in Bladensburg, Md. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Visitors walk around the 40-foot Maryland Peace Cross dedicated to World War I soldiers on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019 in Bladensburg, Md. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
A cross, erected in memory of Fray Juan de Padilla, stands along US56 near Lyons, Kan., Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. The cross was a gift to the State of Kansas by the Knights of Columbus in 1950. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
A cross, erected in memory of Fray Juan de Padilla, stands along US56 near Lyons, Kan., Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. The cross was a gift to the State of Kansas by the Knights of Columbus in 1950. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)