After nearly 100 years and a number of mishaps, the Mount Soledad cross must be removed within the next 90 days; US District Judge Larry Burns explained that the cross violates a constitutional amendment separating church and state. The cross has stood on the San Diego, California, mountain for decades.
The original wooden cross was erected in 1913. Throughout the next 10 years, the cross was stolen, returned, and eventually burned to the ground. A second cross, which was covered in stucco, was erected in 1934. According to SecularSanDiego.com, the cross was knocked over by strong winds in 1952.
In 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of several California residents and organizations, which include the Jewish Veterans of the United States of America. Spokesman Daniel Mach discusses the lawsuit:
“We support the government paying tribute to those who served bravely in our country’s armed forces… But we should honor all of our heroes under one flag, not just one particular religious symbol.”
Judge Burns originally ruled that the Mount Soledad cross is not in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. However, his decision was overturned by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals. The Appeals court ruled that the cross sends “a message of endorsement and exclusion,” as it stands on government land.
Although Judge Burns disagrees with the decision, he was forced to issue the order — the cross must be removed from the mountain within 90 days. The judge said the order will be stayed pending an appeal.
Mt. Soledad Memorial Association President Bruce Bailey said the ruling is disappointing, but he is not ready to give up:
“It is unfortunate that the Ninth Circuit left the judge no choice but to order the tearing down of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross… However, we are grateful for the judge’s stay that gives us an opportunity to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court.”
If an appeal is not received by the court, the Mount Soledad Cross will be removed.
[Image via Flickr]