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Battle Ensues Over Proposal to Add Christian Cross to Official Los Angeles County Gov't Seal

"communicates that Los Angeles County favors and endorses one religion above all others."

Credit: Los Angeles Board of Supervisors

An old battle has reemerged in Los Angeles, where the county seal is once again at the center of contention. While conservative members of the Board of Supervisors are pushing for the inclusion of a cross in its design, others claim that the Christian symbol has no place on a government seal.

The original seal that caused controversy (Credit: Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors)

This isn't the first time that intense debate has erupted over this very sensitive subject. It was in Sept. 2004 that the board first decided to remove a cross that was on the seal for decades in an effort to avoid a lawsuit.

Now, nearly 10 years later, Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich and Don Knabe want to see it restored, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.

Antonovich and Knabe are arguing that the design on the current seal of the San Gabriel Mission, a religious landmark, is "artistically and architecturally inaccurate" without its cross. While the building has a cross, the newest rendition of the seal doesn't reflect that.

"We, therefore, move that the Board of Supervisors direct the Chief Executive Officer to make the county seal artistically, aesthetically and architecturally correct by placing the cross on top of the San Gabriel Mission in order to accurately reflect the cultural and historical role that the mission played in the development of the Los Angeles County region," the two wrote in their motion.

While the move to restore the cross to the seal is being dubbed as one that would right an inaccuracy, not everyone agrees with this mindset. The American Civil Liberties Union, for instance, argues that a Christian cross has no place on a government seal.

Hector Villagra, executive director of ACLU of Southern California, said that putting the cross back into the design "communicates that Los Angeles County favors and endorses one religion above all others." He added that the county will again be putting itself at risk of a lawsuit if it chooses to restore the cross.

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of University of California, Irvine’s law school, told The Los Angeles Times that the proposal isn't constitutional.

"The government can’t put religious symbols on government property in a way that would cause a reasonable observer to see it as the endorsement of a religion," the academic said.

The current Los Angeles County seal (Credit: Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors)

The American Civil Liberties Union knows this debate well, as the group was instrumental in successfully battling for the cross's removal back in 2004. As a result, the county spent $700,000 in 2004 in an effort to remove and replace the seal from all government buildings, uniforms, stationary and other public venues.

The newest cross proposal, though, reportedly wouldn't cost the county anything, as it would only require new seals to include the cross; the old design would not need to be removed or changed in places where it currently resides.

There's no telling where the proposal will go, but if it's adopted there is sure to be a church versus state debate in Los Angeles.

(H/T: Los Angeles Daily News)

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Featured image via Los Angeles Board of Supervisors

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