A 43-foot-tall cross at the top of Mount Soledad in La Jolla was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge and ordered to be removed within 90 days.
The cross is a part of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial and was first challenged in 2006 by the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals first ruled the cross to be unlawful in 2011.
The case was then sent to the San Diego federal court where a federal judge ruled Thursday that the cross violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits the government from establishing or endorsing a religious.
“It is unfortunate that the Ninth Circuit left the judge no choice but to order the tearing down of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross,” Bruce Bailey, president of the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association told Fox News on Thursday. “However, we are grateful for the judge’s stay that gives us an opportunity to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court.”
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The cross was placed in La Jolla in 1954 and dedicated at an Easter Sunday ceremony being described as “a gleaming white symbol of Christianity,” according to the ACLU.
“We support the government paying tribute to those who served bravely in our country’s armed forces,” said the director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief Daniel Mach in a press release Thursday. “But we should honor all our heroes under one flag, not just one particular religious symbol.”
Executive Director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties Norma Chavez-Peterson said it is “inappropriate and unconstitutional to declare a deeply religious symbol that excludes those out of the faith as a monument to all veterans."
However, Congressman Darrel Issa, supports the cross and its inclusion in the war memorial.
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“Our founding fathers did not seek to scrub all religious expression from public spaces, but rather sought to create a government and a society that respected the practice of all religious,” Issa said. “The Mount Soledad war Memorial and the landmark cross honor the veterans in the same vein as crosses that mark the grave sites of soldiers entombed at Arlington National Cemetery and other U.S. veterans cemeteries worldwide.”
The case could be appealed by the Department of Justice, but as long as the current decision stands, the cross must be taken down within 90 days.
Sources: NBC San Diego, Buzzfeed, Fox News