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              The sunlight glows through the cross at Mt. Soledad Memorial Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012 in San Diego.  The Mt. Soledad Memorial Association is petitioning the Supreme Court to stop the demolition of the cross mandated by a ACLU lawsuit that claims the cross in unconstitutional because it violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.   (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Judge orders removal of San Diego war memorial cross

Photo of Caroline May
Caroline May
Political Reporter

A federal judge ordered the removal of a 43-foot veterans memorial cross on Mt. Soledad in San Diego, Calif, Thursday, charging that the federal display violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

Writing that no “reasonable alternative” had been presented to relieve the Constitutional violation, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ordered the nearly 60 year-old memorial cross be removed within 90 days, but stayed the ruling pending an expected appeal of the decision.

The Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial has been under legal scrutiny since 2006 when the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties challenged the monument on behalf of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America and several local residents.

In 2011 the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that the cross violated the First Amendment. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case last year, remanding it to Burns’ federal court.

“We support the government paying tribute to those who served bravely in our country’s armed forces,” Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, said in a statement. “But we should honor all of our heroes under one flag, not just one particular religious symbol.”

It is expected that the decision will again be appealed to the Supreme Court.

“We will continue 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.” Hiram Sasser, the director of Litigation for Liberty Institute, which defended with cross, told UT San Diego.

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