Friday, January 7, 2011

California cross war memorial unconstitutional rules court

By Peter Smith, SAN DIEGO, California, January 6, 2011 ( – A U.S. federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Mt. Soledad Cross, a war memorial erected in 1954 to honor American war veterans, is an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

A three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the cross did not pass constitutional muster.

“After examining the entirety of the Mount Soledad Memorial in context – having considered its history, its religious and non-religious uses, its sectarian and secular features, the history of war memorials and the 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 Establishment Clause,” the ruling stated.

The court said that it takes no position on whether the memorial “could not be modified to pass constitutional muster” and said that it’s decision does not mean “that no cross can be part of this veterans’ memorial.”

The Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council (FRC) called upon the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to review the Mt. Soledad Cross case, also known as Trunk v. San Diego.

“This decision by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit displays hostility toward religious imagery in the public square that ignores these essential aspects of religious liberty and American tradition,” said FRC President Tony Perkins.

“In 2001, when militants set out to bomb two colossal Buddhist statues that had stood untouched in Afghanistan for more than a thousand years, the global community rightly condemned the actions as religious barbarism. Like the statues, the Mt. Soledad Cross is a monument to America ‘s cultural history, a symbol of our Christian heritage and a tribute to brave Americans who laid down their lives in our nation’s cause. Their memories should not be besmirched.

The case was filed by an atheist in 1989 against the 29 foot cross erected on Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, California as a monument honoring veterans of the Korean War, and First and Second World Wars. It has been embattled in litigation ever since 1989.

Perkins said the appeals court’s ruling was “the latest sad chapter in a decades-long fight over the Mt. Soledad cross” and that the U.S. Supreme Court should intervene if the full 9th Circuit did not take up the case.

The American Legion stated their disappointment in the ruling, and said they would be asking for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

“I am asking Attorney General (Eric) Holder to appeal this regrettable decision to the Supreme Court,” said Jimmie L. Foster, national commander of the American Legion, the largest U.S. veterans organization. “The sanctity of this cross is about the right to honor our nation’s veterans in a manner which the overwhelming majority supports. The American Legion strongly believes the public has a right to protect its memorials.”

The group intends to file an amicus brief in support of the cross, when an appeal is filed.

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