Culture, Science & Faith

Mt. Soledad Cross Ordered Removed

Years of legal wrangling over "the free exercise" of religion.

Dec. 13, 2013

The Mt. Soledad Memorial Association was formed in 1952 with the following mission: “To enhance and preserve the Mt. Soledad Veterans’ Memorial honoring those veterans who have served our country during times of conflict and to educate the general public about service to our country and the sacrifices that veterans make to preserve the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.” The 43-foot War Memorial Cross currently standing atop Mt. Soledad near San Diego (the third such emplacement there) dates back to April 18, 1954, when the monument was rededicated to World War I, World War II, and Korean War veterans during an Easter Sunday ceremony.

In 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled that the cross stood in violation of the First Amendment, which is, of course, completely backwards. The amendment recognizes the right to “the free exercise” of religion, and the cross was not an act of Congress “respecting an establishment of religion.” But the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, sending it back instead to the San Diego trial court.

After years of legal wrangling, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ruled Thursday that the cross must be removed within 90 days because it is an “unconstitutional” religious display on government land. He did, however, issue a stay of the ruling for the inevitable appeal. It remains to be seen whether the cross will stay or go, but Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the Liberty Institute, promised to “fight for this memorial and the selfless sacrifice and service of all the millions of veterans it represents; it is the least we can do for those who gave so much to us all.”