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Veterans Group Planning Challenge Of Judge’s Order To Remove Soledad Cross

Evening Edition

Aired 12/13/13 on KPBS News.

The San Diego veterans group who erected the cross on Mt. Soledad is planning to challenge a federal judge's ruling that the 43-foot-tall cross must be removed.

A veteran’s group is challenging a federal judge’s ruling Thursday that the cross atop Mt. Soledad in La Jolla must be removed.

Mt. Soledad was declared a national war memorial in 2006. In 2011, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the cross is a religious symbol and violates the First Amendment.

The Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Association originally erected the cross in 1954. The group is challenging the judge’s ruling with the Liberty Institute, a legal group focused on religious issues.

The judge ruled Thursday that the 43-foot cross must be taken down within 90 days. Bruce Bailey, president of the MSMA, said this gives his group time to appeal the decision.

“It’s unfortunate that the 9th Circuit left the judge no choice but to order the tearing down of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross,” Bailey said. “However, we are grateful for the judge’s stay that gives us an opportunity to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court.”

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal the 9th Circuit Court's decision.

Joseph Lathrop, an Army veteran and Buddhist, also thinks the cross should stay.

“It’s a memorial," he said. "I mean, it's like knocking over the headstone at any person’s grave. I mean, just leave it alone, it’s not bothering anybody.”

In 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America and other San Diego residents who wanted the cross removed.

Jeff Wergeles, deputy director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, said the site’s distinction as a memorial means it should be free of religious icons.

“On church property or someone’s backyard, that’s perfectly wonderful. But if we’re celebrating all service people who have fought under our flag, we should have something nonsecular,” Wergeles said.

Wergeles said the legal battle over the cross could go on for up to three years. The cross will stay on Mt. Soledad until the fight is settled.

Comments

Avatar for user 'LBrixey'

LBrixey | December 14, 2013 at 9:16 a.m. ― 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Yep. 1954. Back when the cross was meant to declare that only white Christians could purchase property in La Jolla. In fact, it was originally called the Mount Soledad Easter Cross. There have been a lot of shenanigans - after litigation was started - to attempt to reinvent it as a war memorial after the fact, to camouflage its original intent.

All's I can say is that I hope this group reimburses the taxpayers for all the time they are wasting on this issue. The Supreme Court has already declined to hear the case. The group has nothing to do but remove the cross. Some years back, a church volunteered to take it. So give it to them already.

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Avatar for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | December 14, 2013 at 10:31 a.m. ― 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Why cant the public vote on this and the seals and so on and so forth. I think there are more people that want it to stay than go.

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Avatar for user 'Anon11'

Anon11 | December 14, 2013 at 10:38 a.m. ― 9 months, 3 weeks ago

@sd:

Because the ruling was that it is unconstitutional. If you want to vote on amending it, go ahead and try. But just like a majority can't vote to remove freedom of speech from someone with an unpopular union, we can't remove freedom of religion from those with less popular religions.

Would you be opposed to a giant star of David? We had many Jewish servicemen (and women) fight for it freedoms, so it could retain its status as a war memorial.

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Avatar for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | December 14, 2013 at 12:56 p.m. ― 9 months, 3 weeks ago

What a joke, needing a court to rule a symbol unconstitutional. I don't care for any religion. But i do love that for the most part they stand for hope and striving to be a better human for those that may need it. I think the thin skinned people who's cause in life is to sue over anything that they find offensive is weak. Just like any one who wants to remove this icon of our local area. Every land in the world is filled with religious and cultural icons. Why is it so offensive here? Because people are so spoiled and rotten in our country that they waste our judicial systems time with meritless lawsuits because they are meek. I hope people show up in mass to defend this thing.

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Avatar for user 'MaoTzu'

MaoTzu | December 14, 2013 at 3:08 p.m. ― 9 months, 3 weeks ago

This Vet want's it to go!

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Avatar for user 'Anon11'

Anon11 | December 14, 2013 at 3:29 p.m. ― 9 months, 3 weeks ago

"What a joke, needing a court to rule a symbol unconstitutional."

How else would we do it? Due process for the win.

"I don't care for any religion. But i do love that for the most part they stand for hope and striving to be a better human for those that may need it."

That is an extremely subjective opinion. Even in cases where religion reinforces good morality and behaviors, it still comes with baggage in the form of doctrine. In many cases, the religions themselves are contradictory, so their faithful can apply religious logic in whatever manner is most convenient at the time. (For example, how many Christians promote slavery? It was very prominent in the Bible. The same book that encourages love and forgiveness. But I digress.)

Good people can be good without religion. To flaunt it as a clean, clear path to morality is disingenuous.

"I think the thin skinned people who's cause in life is to sue over anything that they find offensive is weak. Just like any one who wants to remove this icon of our local area. "

Again, your opinion. If you're not thin-skinned, why does this issue even raise your concern? Or are you just commenting because sue-happy people offend you? Ironic.

"Every land in the world is filled with religious and cultural icons. Why is it so offensive here?"

Because public lands are maintained by every taxpayer, and some of them do not like the idea of their money going towards religious symbolism, because religion is supposed to be divorced from the state. If someone put a giant crescent and star monument on the street in front of your house, would you be ok with helping pay for it? A little perspective helps you understand the other side.

"Because people are so spoiled and rotten in our country that they waste our judicial systems time with meritless lawsuits because they are meek. I hope people show up in mass to defend this thing."

Defend what, exactly? It's a religious symbol on public land. If this is about maintaining a war memorial, raise a flag or another universal symbol. To demagogue this issue by appealing to the most popular religion is underhanded and just plain wrong. Our rights are guaranteed to allow unpopular opinion to exist, as popular opinions need no protection. This is a perfect example of the Constitution doing its job.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 14, 2013 at 6:20 p.m. ― 9 months, 2 weeks ago

A very simple test would be to suggest constructing a giant swastika. It is a holy symbol used for over 10,000 years by Hindus and Buddhists to represent something good.

Mt. Soledad is something good, right? Somehow I think this "veterans" groups would not agree. They'd be outraged by ANY other symbol being placed there.

Their tears are false and their arguments are hollow. That is why they have failed.

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Avatar for user 'lmedina911'

lmedina911 | December 29, 2013 at 1:37 p.m. ― 9 months ago

Dwayne Brown and Emily Burns
You are liars. The cross was not erected by the Veteran's group. The cross was there long before it was Easter Cross and you know that if you did one ounce of news investigative reporting. You are shoving propaganda out to the public to what? get your way. You should be ashamed. The cross was put there and represented that the neighborhood was Christians and no Jews were allowed to purchase property there. Why don't you know something about what you are reporting on instead of writing throw up out of the mouths you interview

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