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Soledad Cross Battle Might Be Heading To Supreme Court

Above: Navy Veteran Jim Wall climbs the stairs at Mt. Soledad on February 15th, 2014.

Lawyers for the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association on Tuesday filed a petition to send a long-running court battle over the fate of a 43-foot cross in the hills above La Jolla directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The association is appealing a recent district court order to have the cross removed. The nation's high court refused to hear the case two years ago.

Judge Larry Burns issued his order in December in response to a 2011 decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the memorial violates the First Amendment. The judge stayed his order until all appeals are exhausted.

"Due to the unique circumstances and the gravity of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial case, we wanted to give the Supreme Court an opportunity to take the case now if they choose — since they will be deciding it eventually," said Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of the Liberty Institute, which has taken up the association's cause.

"We are hopeful that, once and for all, the court will settle this question of the constitutionality of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, as the fate of hundreds of other similar veterans memorials hang in the balance," Shackelford said.

Association President and CEO Bruce Bailey said members of his organization were eager to see the case go before the high court.

Erected in 1954, the memorial is the nation's oldest Korean War Veterans Memorial, containing more than 3,300 plaques honoring the sacrifice and service of members of the armed forces.

The memorial association indicated after Burns' ruling that it would appeal the decision by Burns, who noted his disagreement with the appellate decision.

The cross has has been the subject of legal challenges for the past 24 years. 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.

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, filed suit that same year to get the cross taken down.

They contend the memorial should not have one predominant religious symbol.

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Avatar for user 'mlcred'

mlcred | March 5, 2014 at 8:47 a.m. ― 3 years ago

"Erected in 1954, the memorial is the nation's oldest Korean War Veterans Memorial..."

Is this directly from the war memorial group PR pamphlet?

Truth is it was called the Easter Cross when first erected in 1954 and didn't become a "war memorial" until AFTER the first suit was brought in 1989.

We expect better reporting from PBS.

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Avatar for user 'lifesaver1'

lifesaver1 | March 6, 2014 at 6:56 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Is it coincidental that the cross was placed above a town (La Jolla) with a history of institutionalized discrimination toward Jews?

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Avatar for user 'Flagsrus'

Flagsrus | March 6, 2014 at 8:46 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Replace the cross with the worlds biggest United States flag visible for miles around. You can't argue against the flag.

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Avatar for user 'Frankie'

Frankie | March 6, 2014 at 11:31 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Thank you, mlcred, for correcting KPBS' misrepresentation about the Mt. Soledad Christian Cross. The site was commonly used for Easter sunrise services until it was ginned into a "war memorial" by La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club owner Bill Kellogg and others in the "Mt. Soledad Memorial Association" after 1989.

And thank you, Flagsrus, for your suggestion that would be embraced by everyone on both sides of this contentious issue.

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Avatar for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | March 6, 2014 at 2:39 p.m. ― 3 years ago

How about the people vote?? It is such a community icon/ contested issue. Let the democratic process do its job. The intent and spirit of the separation of church and state has little to do with a cross on a piece of land public or private.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 6, 2014 at 2:55 p.m. ― 3 years ago

They don't want to vote because only about 5% of people want it removed. The rest like it or don't care. Angry little atheists wonder why people hate them when they spend all their time whining and complaining about things like this.

I really believe they just have nothing better to do. Normal people do not care that much about things like this. Even if it was a crescent moon on the hill, I would not try to get it removed. It wouldn't bother me.

Mass surveillance? Giving my tax dollars to welfare leeches? Police brutality? Now those are worth talking about.

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Avatar for user 'JesseAndrew'

JesseAndrew | March 6, 2014 at 3:06 p.m. ― 3 years ago

“Erected in 1954, the memorial is the nation's oldest Korean War Veterans Memorial, containing more than 3,300 plaques honoring the sacrifice and service of members of the armed forces.”

I can’t really hold that misstatement against the writer, since he didn’t write it, but simply repeated without sourcing… I think there’s a word for that.

Adding the plaques was and is simply a means to an end, and is a dishonor to veterans everywhere because honoring veterans is not the true reason the plaques were added.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 6, 2014 at 3:39 p.m. ― 3 years ago

JesseAndrew how dare you presume to know the "real" reason that the plaques were added and accuse people of lying. Are you psychic? You know the true intention in peoples mind when they added the plaques?

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