Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Cross on public land in San Diego is unconstitutional, federal court rules

The 43-foot cross atop public land on Mount Soledad in San Diego is an unconstitutional endorsement of a religion, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday, the latest twist in a two-decade legal struggle.

But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals did not order the cross removed, as the Jewish War Veterans and other litigants, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, had hoped.

Instead, Judge M. Margaret McKeown sent the case back to a federal trial judge for "further proceedings" on the issue of whether the cross can be modified to "pass constitutional muster" as a war memorial.

Tuesday's ruling was in response to an appeal from a July 2008 ruling by Judge Larry Burns that the cross was part of a war memorial and thus could remain.

The property surrounding the cross has been controlled by the U.S. Department of Defense since 2006, a move that cross-supporters on the City Council and Congress thought would protect it from a court ruling that a cross on public property is improper.

McKeown wrote that "having considered its history, its religious and non-religious uses, its sectarian and secular features, the history of war memorials and dominance of the Cross -- we conclude that the Memorial, presently configured and as a whole, primarily conveys a message of government endorsement of religion that violates" the constitutional provision of separation of church and state.

The ruling did not suggest methods that the cross and surrounding property could be reconfigured. That presumably will be the subject of continuing litigation.

Defendants in the case  were the city of San Diego, the U.S. government, and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.

In recent years, hundreds of small plaques are been erected on walls at the base of the cross in honor of military veterans of all faiths. But McKeown said that did not change the fact that the cross is primarily a Christian symbol.

The Washington-based American Center for Law and Justice, which had filed a brief on behalf of 25 members of Congress who support the cross, called the decision "a judicial slap in the face to the countless military veterans honored by this memorial." Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the group, said he looks forward to the case going to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ACLU hailed the decision. "We honor those who have served, but the Constitution does not allow the government to exclude non-Christians by endorsing a clearly religious symbol," said David Blair-Loy, legal director of the ACLU chapter of San Diego and Imperial counties.


Mother struck, killed by daughter's car in Buena Park

Michael Jackson too weak to perform days before death, says choreographer

Lindsay Lohan battery case strong enough for prosecutors to consider charges

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Comments () | Archives (28)

Why do Christians keep putting their religious symbols on public property? What's the point of forcing other citizens and taxpayers to spend money defending these lawsuits? Do people really believe that non-Christians are going to simply accept the notion this country belongs to Christians?

What a waste of taxpayers money. This has been going on for 2 decades. I'm sure most of the Catholic people behind the cross staying are the bible pumping idoits that believe they are the only religion that counts.

I'm not Catholic and could care less about the cross on the hill. I see crosses on other hills and don't hear squat about them.

Use our taxpaying money on something worthwhile.

The current cross was put up in 1954, long before the judiciary's fetish for stripping any symbol of Christianity out of the public square. And San Diego taxpayers have repeated supported the cross being in its present location, which makes sense , since Christians are about 80-90 percent of the taxpayers (and casualties in our wars).

there's a lot more crosses to be taken down across america.

those christians just can't take a hint.

I personally don't believe the cross is hurting anybody. If someone from another religion would like to create their own memorial I would be perfectly fine with that becasue we do have freedom of religion- the first amendment. However, this is not a matter dealing with the first amendment. The issue at hand is the fact that the cross is on governement land and the government is suppose to be neutral to everyone and their religion. The Establishment Clause creates a wall between state and church. The government can't set a specific religion for the U.S. like King did to the people of England. So if they continue to allow the cross to stay on their land- even as a war memorial- we are a step closer to the government setting a religion. Having the cross on private property is perfectly fine, but not on government land.

As a Christian, I say keep the crosses on churches, and let the public land be as natural as possible, to let people admire the creation. If I was out in the hills I'd rather see open spaces than a cross someone put up.

Maybe Christians should focus less on staking territory for their iconography and a little more on simply living according to the tenets of their faith.

I dont know why religious folk spend so much time, money, and effort defending religious symbols on public property. It's as if they've never read the constitution, or even if they have, don't care about it. What's more baffling is why some of the great legal minds that presumably sit on our judiciary, continue to kick the can down the road for another judge to sort out issues of "constitutional muster." Enough already! Judge McKeown did the first half of her job, but needs to complete it by telling DoD or someone to pull up the cross, or cover it. Why waste more of the court's time by figuring out what should be done about an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion? I mean, really??

Ahh Mitchell, Mitchell, Mitchell. You will never get it. Just because it's old, doesn't mean its right. And I seriously beg to differ with you over the 90% figure. And, seriously, if pout to a vote, would the San Diego citizen's rather see the cross down or approve a tax to pay for the law suits, I think I know how they would vote. Go put your crosses on YOUR churches that have been financed by YOUR donations. I'm O.K with that even though I still pay taxes to the City and YOUR church gets free police, fire and storm drainage protection services, due to YOUR churches tax-free status.

As an Atheist, I think this is stupid. It's a historic landmark. This country is based on Christianity. Are they going to destroy every Christian symbol? What about, say, holiday items in order to please Jehovah's witnesses? Just get rid of everything that stands for something. You can't please everyone. If you don't like it, don't honor or pray to it. So. Dumb.

Many of the remaining Missions in California are now State Parks. They preserve history of when Christianity was a tool of Imperialists an used to enslave and murder indigenous people and destroy entire societies. Is Mount Soledad really any different?

Hey Toprock, where in the article does it say catholics have anything to do with this?!?!?! weenie......

Is. 5:20 "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"

The relativists shall truly reap what they sow - judgment is coming.

Why is it that the non-christians in our society take offense at historic symbols? I'm pretty sure in 1954 when this memorial cross was erected there was no intention to exclude or offend other religions or non-believers. The symbolic cross was meant to honor all of those veterans that gave their lives to support our way of life. Now, because our society has become so politically correct we dishonor those same veterans by requiring the demolition/removal of a monument posted in their honor. All in the name of over-zealous interpretations on the seperation of church and state. The law was meant to restrict our federal government from establishing a single religion, not to promote tolerance through the removal of religion. How about we stop tearing apart history in the name of tolerance and focus EVERYONE on being tolerant in the future?

If these San Diego Christians were even the slightest bit religious then they wouldn't need all these crosses and monuments on public property or anywhere else.
One man's religious woobie blanket is another's eyesore.
What a complete waste of tax dollars. Why not put all the millions of dollars spent on these selfish quests to a vote? See how people feel about it when they have to open their wallets for it.

Maybe Jesus would consider visiting SD now that they are removing the giant torture device that, time after time, reminded him of how he was killed.

Uh, I don't know where the 80-90% of taxpayers are Christians figure came from, but that's BS. Only 78% of Americans even identify themselves as Christian. How many of those are practicing, and how many out of that number even pay taxes? It ain't 80-90%. Regardless, if that's your argument, that's tyranny of the majority. Not cool.

Let the United States Navy give or sell that land immediately. There is no reason for the United States Navy to have that land.

Do not allow the Cross to be removed from the site it has been established at. As such it is now a historical marker indicating the life and spirit of the United States at the time of the Korean War - which was a war against Godless Communism.

In any case - do not allow the Cross to be removed. If it is put it up again and again and again.

Appeal the appeal or do whatever it is necessary to guarantee the right to freedom of speech and do not allow the government to strike down that symbol of religion and faith for which those men and women have DIED for so that others can drink, dance and party without concern. Separation of Church and States also means that the state will not suppress or crush any expression of religious feeling. The concept that Christianity is a religion of exclusion is an errant idea. Tolerance should be the order of the day. That court order is an attempt to muzzle, crush and destroy religious practices and moderate them the way that Communist China moderates reincarnation. It is insane and should not be tolerated.

Do not let them drag that Cross down into the dust the way that the statues of Lenin and Stalin and Sadam Husein were.

How ridiculous. I see the Jews are all upset on this. They can take down the cross when Jews represent their fair share of military personal in this country and we send ZERO dollars to Israel.

LOL, The Cross sure is a thorn in the side of non believers, I wonder why that is.... Well I already know, I guess I wonder than of those that oppose it know why they oppose it so.

Rather or not the cross is erected on public land, the power of the cross, the blood, and the death burial and resurrection of Christ stands erect in the minds and hearts of billions of people internationally. Wow. That is saying something huh.

If you really want to know why Christians believe as they do, get on your knees and ask God to reveal it to you.

Just as the Star of David does not enrage me, I find it difficult to understand why others are offended by the cross. I could not find it within me to have a court order someone to remove the Star of David as what is important to them is important to me as a man of God. We are of the same Abraham and the same God. My heart grieves though as I see Gods people argue over which symbol reflects God's love for us all. In fact I have no problem with the Star of David being incorporated into the display as part of a War Memorial. I donot feel that the display of either is forcing my beliefs upon someone else. It's simply a joyous display of what represents God's love in my heart.

what a joke. waste of attention, waste of funds... I'm speaking about christianity of course (spell check keeps trying to tell me to capitalize the c). Not all people want to see a 43 foot tall execution device on federal land. Is it too much to ask for its removal?

So I guess the city of San Diego (Saint Diego in English) should change its name too? All cities named after a saint should change their name too right? This is such a waist of time and money.

"LOL, The Cross sure is a thorn in the side of non believers, I wonder why that is...."

Maybe it's be the smug and smarmy believers who keep shoving crosses in others' faces, and whose speech drips with condescension and contempt for anyone who doesn't feel as they do. Or maybe some vets just don't feel honored by someone else's symbol. No, that's too mundane, it must be SATAN!

I consider myself a Christian, but these passive-aggressive, "I'm just going to put a cross here and it's your problem if you don't like it"-types just bother me. Just because you think you're going to Heaven doesn't mean you can be a jerk on Earth.

Dear Jesus,
Why are your followers so dumb?

1 2 | »


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Please send to newstips@latimes.com
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: