Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Appeals Court Rules Crosses on Federal Land Unconstitutional

Is having a cross on public property unconstitutional? It is now. According to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, having a religious symbol incorporated into a memorial is a no go.  Three versions of the Christian symbol have been erected atop 822-foot Mount Soledad in La Jolla, California, since 1913.

The current 43-foot cross was erected in 1954 in honor of Korean War veterans and has been the subject of near constant judicial back and forth since 1989, when two Vietnam War veterans filed suit against the city, saying it violated the California Constitution's "No Preference" clause.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the notion that the cross -- since the late 1990s surrounded by plaques and paving stones honoring veterans and war dead -- was solely a memorial.

"The use of such a distinctively Christian symbol to honor all veterans sends a strong message of endorsement and exclusion," the court said in its ruling. "It suggests that the government is so connected to a particular religion that it treats that religion's symbolism as its own, as universal. To many non-Christian veterans, this claim of universality is alienating."

The ruling will almost certainly be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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