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Nonprofit Buys Mount Soledad Cross Property

The Mt. Soledad Cross and Veterans Memorial is pictured in this undated photo.
Sandy Huffaker
The Mt. Soledad Cross and Veterans Memorial is pictured in this undated photo.

The nonprofit organization that manages the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial announced Monday it purchased the property from the U.S. Defense Department for $1.4 million.

The Mount Soledad Memorial Association took control of the half-acre property on Friday.

The memorial has been caught in a decades-long legal battle over the fate of a 29-foot cross, which opponents contend is a government endorsement of a particular religion. The land was owned by the city of San Diego before the federal government took it over nine years ago.

Supporters say the cross is part of a war memorial and note the presence of symbols of other religions.

In 2011, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal ruled the cross violates the U.S. Constitution's establishment clause — which prevents the government from creating a national religion or church — and ordered the case returned to district court for disposition.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns subsequently ordered that the cross be removed, pending further appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court has twice declined to take the case.

"I am honored to be leading our association at this most significant time in our memorial's history," said Bruce Bailey, president and CEO of the group's board of trustees.

"It marks the first time where our membership can manage the memorial's affairs from a place of ownership and accountability for the property, which is a new and welcomed step for the association," Bailey said. "We are honored to now own this property and will continue to recognize our nation's veterans with the same spirit of integrity our association has demonstrated the past 60 years."

The association has been responsible for maintaining and improving the memorial since it was created in 1954.

The association hosts major events on Memorial Day and the week of Veterans Day, and oversees more than 40 ceremonies each year