Mt. Soledad cross near San Diego
A new federal law that transfers ownership of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial to the United States government may be useful for the defense when monuments that mention God or the Bible are attacked, a lawyer says.
Charles LiMandri is West Coast Director for the Thomas More Law Center, and was on hand in Washington when President Bush signed into law a plan that transfers ownership of the monument, which includes a cross, from the city of San Diego to the federal government.
The U.S. Senate last month unanimously passed the legislation calling for the federal government to acquire the site and preserve it.
“It was quite a sight to behold,” LiMandri told WorldNetDaily. “The president was enthusiastic about it.”
He said there had been a court action challenging the monument, because of the presence of a cross on city-owned land. He said those cases probably are moot now, because the city no longer owns the monument.
However, a decision in federal courts still is expected, he said, because the same lawyers already have filed a lawsuit challenging the federal ownership.
“We’re ready,” LiMandri said. “There’s an act of Congress to protect them now.”
He said the law can be used as a precedent that could end up being helpful for other monuments such as Ten Commandments.
“All religious displays on public property stand to be impacted, even conceivably, with regard to ‘In God We Trust’ on our money and ‘Under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance,” he said.
The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this summer had intervened in the disagreement to stay a lower court’s order that the city either remove the cross or face fines of $5,000 per day.
The legislative plan now protects 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 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,” Jay Sekulow, chief counsel with the American Center for Law and Justice, said then.
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 presence of the cross atop Mt. Soledad enrages the ACLU much like a red flag waved in front of a bull,” said Richard Thompson, chief counsel for the More Center.
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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