On April 7, federal judge rejected a Los Angeles County's effort to bring back an image of a cross on its official seal, declaring the move unconstitutional.
In her 55-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder wrote that returning the cross to the seal would put "the county’s power, prestige and purse behind a single religion, Christianity, without making any such benefit available on an equal basis to those with secular objectives or alternative sectarian views," according to the Daily Breeze. The controversial seal was originally adopted in 1957.
The cross was first removed from the county's seal in 2004 after a challenge by the ACLU. In 2009, the seal was redrawn with the image of the San Gabriel mission without a cross.
In 2014, however, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to place a cross back on the mission, citing its historical accuracy, according to KNBC. Since then, legal challenges from the ACLU have stopped its implementation.
The ACLU hailed the ruling from the federal judge as a triumph of civil liberty.
"We are heartened by the court’s ruling because it recognizes that Los Angeles is a diverse county comprised of adherents of hundreds of faiths as well as nonbelievers, all of whom are entitled to be treated with equal dignity by their government," Linda M. Burrow, the plaintiff's lawyer, and Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, said in a statement, according to KNBC.
"The placement of the cross on the official county seal promotes one religious sect above others and denies the principle that government represents all of the people, not just those who follow a particular faith."
Even after the judge's decision, however, the debate may not be over.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who helped lead the charge to to add the cross back on the seal, said he supports appealing the decision.
"As any California fourth-grade student knows, the San Gabriel Mission is an important icon to the region and the birthplace of Los Angeles County," he said in a statement.