Finally, in 2006, it seems like that lawsuit may finally be drawing to a close. Again.
The case has actually be ruled on many times. And every time, the verdict has been the same: the cross is unconstitutional. This decision was handed down in 1991.
But it seems some people just don't learn.
The decision was appealed in 1993 to the 9th circuit court, and was granted a hearing en banc in which all of the 28 judges in the court vote. The unanimous decision was that the cross was still unconstitutional.
But a little thing like that won't stop people from trying. So in 1994, the land that the cross rests on was sold for $24,000 to the Mt. Soledad Association. However, this sale was deemed unconstitutional under California's constitution due to the fact that the city did not solicit bids from other buyers and had sold it directly to the Mt. Soledad Association who had expressed that their desire was to keep the cross intact.
So they tried again in 1998. This time, five bids were solicited, and again, it was sold to the Mt. Soledad Association. However, this was again found unconstitutional because California's constitution prevents "government from affording any financial advantage or subsidy to religion."
But if at first you don't succeed, waste more time and taxpayer money. In 2004 the land was again transferred. This time to the US Department of the Interior. As if having the federal government own a giant cross didn't violate any constitutional provisions. However, this transfer was halted by a judge's order until the matter was settled.
But land transfers aren’t the only route the city has taken. In 1999, an attempt was made to declare it a war memorial thinking that would somehow prevent it from being religious. But the judges didn’t fall for it and noted that, since its creation, no commemoration to fallen soldiers has ever been performed, only Easter celebrations. Nor is it identified on maps as a war memorial. A 1985 map identified it as the “Mt. Soledad Easter Cross.”
Finally, in 2006, a federal judge announced that the cross must be removed by August 1, or the city will face a $5,000 fine per day.
So again, the city is looking to transfer the land to the federal government. I’m not sure how they haven’t learned that this doesn’t work. In addition, another appeal has been placed to the Supreme Court.
But who is it that’s behind this? Why it’s none other than the Thomas More Law Center. You know, the group that was confident they could win the Dover Intelligent Design case. We’ll just have to wait and see if their legal expertise is any better in this case.
Duncan Hunter (R) is one of those that just doesn’t seem to get the message. On June 26, he introduced a bill to try to hand the land off to the Defense Department. He recently said:
The fight to save the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial is not about religion. It’s about protecting a symbol of our freedom and honoring those who have chosen to defend it at all costs. Removing this long recognized and respected landmark is an insult to the men and women memorialized on its walls and the service and sacrifice of those who have worn a uniform in defense of our nation.What I want to know is how this fight isn’t about religion? The land wasn’t made a war memorial until 10 years after the lawsuit was filed. Additionally, is it not an insult to memorialize those who have fought and died for our country that are not Christian, by representing them with an explicitly Christian symbol? Furthermore, how does removing the cross have anything to do with the semicircular walls on which the soldiers plaques are placed?
Darrell Issa, a fellow sponsor of Hunter’s bill, recently said that the founding fathers did not envision a nation “devoid of religious expression”. I have to agree with this but note that they did envision one in which religion was not supported by the government, hence the first amendment.
Jay Sekulow, chief council of the ACLJ (the right wing, Christian version of the ACLU), recently said that
This unprecedented rush to remove the cross is senseless and we believe there should be adequate time to permit the appeals process to unfold.Seriously. Isn’t 17 years long enough?