A Costly Cross to Bear

San Diego's recent civic troubles have been well documented. So you might reasonably ask why the City keeps spending dollar after dollar in court after court to try to keep a large cross on top of a mountain in La Jolla. For 17 years, since 1989, the City has failed to offer a legitimate legal reason to keep the religious symbol on top of Mount Soledad. Judge after judge has found the display to be an unconstitutional endorsement of one religion over another under first amendment law despite the fact that the cross was erected as a Korean War Memorial in 1954 (the same year, incidentally, that the words "under God" were added to the Pledge of Allegiance).

And now, in the wake of another adverse federal appeals court ruling, San Diego faces the prospect of being fined $5,000/day if it doesn't remove the cross by August 1st. So what are city officials doing? They are appealing the case back to the U.S. Supreme Court, which a few years ago refused, wisely, to get involved in the case. There is little reason to think the Justices will change their minds and ride to the rescue. Even those officials recognize that their final appeal is a political ploy designed to appease folks who voted overwhelmingly last year to try to save the cross (just because a majority of people want something doesn't make it constitutional).

There is still one angle to the case that bears watching. The City has asked the White House to intervene and seize the property upon which the cross is situated under its power of "eminent domain." If that were to occur, it woud not automatically save the cross from removal. But it likely would buy even more time for a new round of legal wrangling over whether the transfer of the land somehow changes the status of the cross' religious significance. Seventeen years later, we may actually be seeing the final acts in this saga.

By Andrew Cohen |  June 23, 2006; 11:00 AM ET
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I'm an atheist, but I kind of like the Mt. Soledad cross. Sorry...

Posted by: Gene Venable | June 23, 2006 09:47 PM

Cohen wrote:
"the fact that the cross was erected as a Korean War Memorial in 1954"

I'm not even a Christian and I don't find that sentiment abusive. It's a freaking memorial. What next? Remove crosses and Stars of David from tombstones too? When does this total separation madness end?

Memorials should be, well, memorials. If folks want to make a religious one so be it. It's the last thing the living can do for the dead, and such symbols have donned gravesites even before humans were Homo sapiens. Only the ignorant and indifferent would try to deny that rite from the population.


Posted by: SandyK | June 26, 2006 02:45 AM

You know
1) It is a Memorial
2) If you don't like it, Don't look at it
3) I am tired of everything be unconstitutional. Apparently the voters in the area want it by an overwhelming margin. As far as I am concerned, the rights of the few do not outweigh the rights of the many. It was put up in a different time so people who are younger than the monument should not get a say. (Unless they like me support it LOL )

Posted by: CWilliams | June 28, 2006 04:43 PM

Keep the cross on the mountain in LaJolla I love that place and the cross I always visit the cross when I get to come to LaJolla on vacation. It is a very peaceful place to just set and enjoy the quite and the beauty that you can see for miles.

Posted by: Rose | July 31, 2006 04:22 PM

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