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