A controversial cross on federal land in California was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge Thursday and ordered to be removed from it’s current location within 90 days.
The cross atop Mt. Soledad — part of a veterans memorial — violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, a federal judge in San Diego ruled.
“By continuing to permit the current cross to be displayed as part of the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial, both the United States and Secretary Charles Hagel are violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” the ruling stated.
“Therefore, these Defendants are now permanently enjoined from displaying or continuing to allow the display of the current cross on federal land as part of the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial,” it added.
The American Civil Liberties Union celebrated the decision.
“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 press release. “But we should honor all of our heroes under one flag, not just one particular religious symbol.”
“A national war memorial should stand for all of those who served,” Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, echoed, according to KNSD. “It is inappropriate and unconstitutional to declare a deeply religious symbol that excludes those outside of that faith as a monument to all veterans.”
The legality of the cross was initially challenged in 2006 by the Jewish War Veterans of the United States, a group represented by the ACLU. It was ruled unconstitutional in 2011 by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, according to KNSD. The case was then sent back to federal court in San Diego where the ruling was issued.
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