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Mt. Soledad cross near San Diego
It’s been called a “red flag waved in front of a bull” to those who want to strip America of its Christian heritage, but a memorial that honors United States’ war veterans with a cross is another step closer to protection.
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation yesterday that would provide for the federal government to acquire the site of the Mt.Soledad Veterans Memorial and preserve it.
It was a “great victory” for veterans, Richard Thompson, chief counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, said today.
But he warned the fight, which already has lasted 17 years, isn’t over.
“The presence of the cross atop Mt. Soledad enrages the ACLU much like a red flag waved in front of a bull,” he said.
The U.S. Supreme Court just last month intervened in the disagreement to stay a lower court’s order that the city either remove the cross by Tuesday, or face fines of $5,000 per day.
The legislation is “strongly” supported by President Bush.
“In the face of legal action threatening the continued existence of the current memorial, the people of San Diego have clearly expressed their desire to keep the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in its present form,” said a recent administration policy statement obtained by WorldNetDaily.
“The administration supports the important goal of preserving the integrity of war memorials,” the statement said.
The legislative plan would protect the 29-foot concrete cross atop Mt. Soledad that was targeted in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union after an atheist alleged it violated his belief that historic religious emblems couldn’t be displayed on public property.
The legislation is a second front to the effort to preserve the honor to this nation’s fallen heroes. The court battle continues, with oral arguments on the issue scheduled for the week of Oct. 16. Earlier, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the most overturned appellate court in the federal judiciary, refused to stay a lower court order.
That order from District Judge Gordon Thompson concluded the cross is unconstitutional, and he had imposed the Tuesday deadline.
The U.S. House earlier had approved the same legislation, allowing the Senate approval to send the issue to the president.
“The congressional action underscores what most Americans understand – that the Mt. Soledad cross poses no constitutional crisis in honoring our war heroes,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel with the American Center for Law and Justice.
The ACLJ represents a number of members of Congress, including Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who sponsored the House measure protecting the cross.
The More Center, like the ACLJ a public interest law firm, has been involved in the defense of the memorial for several years already and expects there will be more work.
“The plaintiff and ACLU have already demonstrated their persistence and zeal to take down the cross and this political defeat will most likely intensify their legal efforts as they sense what they thought was sure victory slipping through their fingers,” Thompson said.
The issue had been resolved at one point in 2004, with Congress providing for a way for the land to be donated to the Department of the Interior and administered under the National Park System.
However, the San Diego City Council refused to make the donation, triggering the organization of San Diegans for the Mt. Soledad National War Memorial, whose members concluded the cross is a “national treasure.” They collected more than 100,000 signatures calling on the council to reverse its decision.
A subsequent special election on the issue resulted in 76 percent of the voters deciding to preserve the cross, which is surrounded by six walls holding 3,200 black granite plaques honoring veterans from all military branches.
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