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Calif. war memorial cross ruled unconstitutional
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
January 06, 2011
2 MIN READ TIME

Calif. war memorial cross ruled unconstitutional

Calif. war memorial cross ruled unconstitutional
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
January 06, 2011

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court ruled Jan. 4 a veterans’

memorial featuring a 43-foot cross on California’s Mount Soledad is

unconstitutional.

“The use of such a distinctively Christian symbol to honor

all veterans sends a strong message of endorsement and exclusion,” wrote Judge

M. Margaret McKeown for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “It suggests

that the government is so connected to a particular religion that it treats

that religion’s symbolism as its own, as universal.”

The decision that the memorial in La Jolla, Calif., violates

the Establishment Clause reverses a lower court decision but does not determine

what will happen to the cross that has been the dominant feature of the

monument since it was erected in 1913.

“This result does not mean that the memorial could not be

modified to pass constitutional muster nor does it mean that no cross can be

part of this veterans’ memorial,” McKeown concluded.

The case has wound through the courts for two decades.

“We are grateful to the Ninth Circuit for its recognition

that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment affirms the contribution

of diversity in American democracy without pre-eminence to any single religion,”

said Robert M. Zweiman, past national commander of the Jewish War Veterans of

the USA, which worked with the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge the

memorial.

Legal groups that supported the memorial, including Liberty Institute

and the American Center for Law and Justice, called the decision a “slap in the

face” to military veterans.

A second case involving a controversial monument in Southern

California also remains in the courts.

Last April, the U.S. Supreme Court permitted a war memorial

cross to remain at the Mojave National Preserve and told a lower court to

further consider a congressionally approved transfer of the cross to private

land.

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