Obama Administration To Defend Mount Soledad Cross As War Memorial

| by Kathryn Schroeder

The Department of Justice believes the 29-foot war memorial cross on Mount Soledad in San Diego is not an unconstitutional promotion of Christianity and should remain on federal property.

The 9th Circuit court in San Francisco does not agree, ruling in 2011 that it was unconstitutional because it is located on federal property. The case was sent to U.S. District Judge Larry Burns for alternatives to be considered. In December 2013 Burns ordered for the cross to be removed but said his order “would be put on hold pending appeals,” reports Fox News.

The Obama administration has informed the Supreme Court that they will defend the cross as a war memorial, and not view it as an unconstitutional promotion of Christianity by the government.

The LA Times reports that the Obama administration also said the 9th Circuit court should be given “‘additional time for reflection’ to correct its mistake and uphold the constitutionality of the cross.”

"So long as the stay remains in place, this case can proceed along the usual procedural course without causing immediate harm to the public interest," the Justice Department wrote.

“The United States remains fully committed to preserving the Mount Soledad cross as an appropriate memorial to our nation’s veterans,” Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., Solicitor General of the United States wrote.

The Justice Department plans to appeal to the Supreme Court if it loses.

The cross atop Mount Soledad, erected in 1954. has been a sight of contention since 1989. Congress tried to make peace on the matter a decade ago by taking possession of the land and declaring it a national memorial honoring veterans. But veterans have not all been behind Congress’ decision. The Jewish War Veterans of the United States sued claiming the Christian cross was a religious symbol. 

The administration’s position has been sent to the court and they will ultimately decide the fate of the cross, but it may not be this year.