Mount Soledad cross and veterans memorial above San Diego (soledadmemorial.com)
In an effort supported by Christian advocacy groups nationwide, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders met with White House lawyers in Washington, D.C., to ask President Bush to issue an executive order that would save the Mount Soledad cross after a judge ruling in a case brought by the ACLU ordered it removed.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., also discussed the issue yesterday with Vice President Dick Cheney.
Sanders told the Copley News Service the president’s lawyers “indicated it’s going to be tough to get this done and we’re going to have to work real hard, and they’ll give us as many options as they can.”
As WorldNetDaily reported, U.S. District Judge Gordon Thompson ordered the city of San Diego May 3 to remove the mountain-top cross within 90 days or face a fine of $5,000 a day. Thompson ruled in 1991 the 29-foot structure violates the so-called “separation of church and state,” but the case has remained in courts and become an issue of public policy.
The American Family Association has launched a campaign asking citizens to send an e-mail to the president to effectively take “the case out of Judge Thompson’s hands” by signing an executive order transferring the land to the National Park Service.
The order would complete the annexation of city land first initiated by Hunter in November 2004. One month later, Congress passed legislation requesting transfer of the war memorial site to the federal park system. Last summer, 76 percent of voters in a special election in San Diego agreed to the transfer but courts, citing California law, blocked the vote.
Meanwhile, a group formed last year to save the cross, San Diegans for the Mt. Soledad National War Memorial, has filed papers in the U.S. District Court in San Diego asking to intervene in the case, the first step in an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The citizens group is represented by the Thomas More Law Center, which says it has “pledged to do whatever we can to save” the cross.
Charles LiMandri, West Coast regional director for the Law Center, says that after reviewing case law, he believes federal jurisdiction is much more tolerant of religious icons located on federal property.
A cross has been at the present location, in one form of another, since 1913. Sanders and many citizens consider the cross and the war memorial an important part of San Diego’s history. The battle began in 1989 when Phillip Paulsen, an atheist, filed suit, and a court ordered the city to remove the cross.
Tim Wildmon, president of American Family Association, says more than 247,000 e-mails have been sent to President Bush in nine days.
His father, AFA founder Rev. Don Wildmon, has contacted the White House about the issue.
Tim Wildmon is using his weekday show on American Family Radio, “Today’s Issues” to bring the debate to the attention listeners to more than 180 radio stations.
Jay Sekulow, head of the American Center for Law & Justice, also is asking his radio audience to communicate with the White House.
Last week, Rev. Jerry Falwell told WND he planned to contact the Bush administration. Gary Cass of Coral Ridge Ministries in Florida has also pledged his support.
Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Fund and Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council are planning a press conference at the Mt. Soledad site today to urge supporters to come to San Diego to help save the cross.
Mahoney said in a statement “it must be constantly stressed that the Constitution promises freedom of religion not freedom from religion.”
“Therefore, we are issuing a national call for the faith community and people of good will to come to San Diego and peacefully intervene to prevent the removal of the cross,” he said. We can no longer be silent as our freedoms and history are being stripped away.”
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