U.S. judge orders landmark California cross taken down



LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A massive cross that serves as part of a war memorial on a San Diego hilltop must be dismantled because it has been found to violate a constitutional ban on government endorsement of religion, a federal judge grudgingly ruled on Thursday.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns marks the latest development in a long-running legal battle over the 43-foot-tall cross, a local landmark that has stood on top of Mount Soledad since 1954 and is visible for miles.

Burns stayed his order to give the Obama administration and the association that erected the cross, which have fought its removal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, a chance to file another appeal. Otherwise, he said, the monument must be taken down within 90 days.

"This is a victory for religious liberty," said Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's program on freedom of religion and belief who argued the matter for the plaintiffs in a hearing before Burns on Thursday.

"We firmly support the government's efforts to honor the service of those who fought and died for this country, but there are many ways to do that without playing favorites with religion," Mach said.

The case hinged on whether it is legal for a religious symbol to be prominently displayed on public land and whether the cross violated the U.S. Constitution's requirement on separation of church and state.

The Mount Soledad cross has been the subject of litigation since 1989, when two veterans sued San Diego to get it off city land. In 2006, Congress intervened in the dispute, resulting in the federal government taking ownership of the property.

A group of plaintiffs, including the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, then sued. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals court ruled that the dominance of the cross conveyed a message of government endorsement of religion.

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Tags: ANGELES, California, Cross, LOS, SupremeCourt, memorial., war

Comment by kris feenstra on December 13, 2013 at 5:09pm

The comments are more interesting than the article, in my opinion. People struggle with the idea that the government and its institutions should represent all Americans and not simply those in the majority. Some comment that the cross represents the fallen and/ or the people of San Diego, but the contention is that it only represents some which excluding or outright overriding others. So in defending it as a representation of the fallen soldiers (who can have crosses on their own headstones, no?) becomes problematic. It's basically saying you defend fallen soldiers when they fall into the majority. Not in the majority? You don't count.

Is the cross a big deal? It wouldn't be to me. You can bury my body under a cross, posthumously make me a member of the church, piss on my dead face for all I care (which is not at all if I am dead). But for some people this stuff matters, and if they want to fight it, by all means. Christians can get upset, but they are upset for what reason? Because religious symbolism matters to them? Well, that's the same argument the other side is using, so no dice unless you want to be a hypocrite.

It's not such a bad looking cross. Maybe they can sell it off or something.

Comment by Gallup's Mirror on December 13, 2013 at 10:48pm

"[U.S. District Judge Larry] Burns stayed his order to give the Obama administration and the association that erected the cross, which have fought its removal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, a chance to file another appeal. Otherwise, he said, the monument must be taken down within 90 days." [...] "In June 2012, the Supreme Court declined to take the case, letting the Ninth Circuit's ruling stand. In ordering that the cross be taken down, Burns said on Thursday he did not agree with the Ninth Circuit's ruling but that his hands were tied." (source)

And you know what that means. Burns, in his disagreement, is nudging the Supreme Court's right-wing kangaroos. He's giving them a chance to reconsider, take up the case, and issue another ruling to entangle church and state.

They're still busy ruling on legislative prayer (Christian of course) at town meetings in Town of Greece vs Galloway. What do you suppose are the Vegas odds that the Roberts court is about to square the circle and claim Christian prayers at government meetings aren't a government endorsement of religion? Before you place your bets: the Roberts kangaroos have already refused to apply the Lemon test. I hope I'm wrong, but it doesn't look good.

(Prediction: they'll rule that it's a national tradition to violate the Constitution; the injustice of state-endorsed legislative prayer and discrimination against religious and irreligious minorities has stood enshrined and unchallenged for so long, that they're turning a blind eye. They won't put it in those terms, but that's the reason. This, by the way, was their excuse for declining to apply the Lemon test: they know legislative prayer won't pass it.)

If government-prayer meetings take root all over the nation, what are the odds that the same kangaroo court will rule that a 43-foot symbol of Jesus, towering over public land for the last 60 years, has an entirely secular purpose; secular deism style?

I wonder.

Comment by ɐuɐz ǝllǝıuɐp on December 13, 2013 at 10:55pm

Pointless censorship by the government..to try and justify removal and religion out of politics, where they are doing it the wrong way, by not removing religion out of politics but by removing a piece of art... to impose suppression on the freedom of choice. so what they going to do now ? smash gravestones that are made in the shape of a cross ? This is similar the dilemma of the swastika...

This is a removal of history and I see it almost identical to the censorship and destruction  of art...

Comment by kris feenstra on December 13, 2013 at 11:45pm

...to impose suppression on the freedom of choice.

Freedom of choice? Whose choice? It sounds more like a reversal of poor planning and management.

Comment by Ed on December 14, 2013 at 1:44pm

I am still hopeful the Church of Satan gets there way in Oklahoma!!!

Comment by ɐuɐz ǝllǝıuɐp on December 14, 2013 at 7:34pm

Freedom of choice and expression is what I had in mind, and I just find any form of censorship stupid and silly, when education and information is what is needed... I dont like it when government goes around telling people what to do because the people are under their religio-political elitist dignity and are "human capital" instead of human beings.

Well Ed it sure would have been easier if they placed the cross upside down ... it sure would really hit the news then


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