Cross on public land in San Diego is unconstitutional

| Thursday, January 13, 2011 | |
by Tony Perry and Nardine Saad

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

But the U.S. 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, a three-judge panel 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, wrote Judge M. Margaret McKeown.

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

The cross was first erected in 1913, but the version there now was erected in 1954. In recent years, hundreds of small plaques have been placed 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.



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