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Federal Judge Orders Removal Of Mt. Soledad Cross

Photo by Sandy Huffaker

Above: The Mt. Soledad Cross and Veterans Memorial is pictured in this undated photo.

The long dispute over a cross on top of Mt. Soledad in La Jolla could finally to be coming to an end. A federal judge ruled Thursday that the cross is unconstitutional and should be removed.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2011 that the cross violated the First Amendment. In June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal to that decision, so the cross case was kicked back to a district court. That court ruled today that the 43-foot cross must go.

The federal display was challenged in a 2006 lawsuit by the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America and several local residents, all of whom were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial counties.

The ACLU is celebrating the court's decision as a big win.

Jeff Wergeles, deputy director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, said they aren't sure yet whether the case can finally close, but are hopeful the cross will now have to come down.

"This country was founded on the freedom of religion. A basic American value is that the government does not get involved in religion, and this cross is clearly a religious symbol," Wergeles said.

The cross was erected in 1954 and was dedicated at an Easter Sunday ceremony describing the monument as a "gleaming white symbol of Christianity.''

In 2006, the federal government, through an act of Congress, obtained the title to the cross and its surrounding property by eminent domain, and declared the cross to be a national war memorial.

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