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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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 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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