Federal judge says Mt. Soledad cross must come down

SAN DIEGO — A federal judge ruled Thursday that the long-disputed cross on Mt. Soledad is an unconstitutional religious display on government land and it must come down.

mt.-soledad-crossU.S. District Judge Larry Burns ordered that the cross must be removed from the federal war memorial on Mt. Soledad within 90 days, but he immediately stayed his order pending and expected appeal by the government, according to James McElroy, one of the attorneys in the case.

Representatives with the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association believe the case is far from over.

“We have 90 days in which to appeal his order, which we will do,” said Bruce Bailey, Mt. Soledad Memorial Association.

The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and McElroy on behalf of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America and several other San Diego residents.

The Mount Soledad Memorial has been the subject of ongoing litigation for the last two decades. In January 2011, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an earlier decision by Judge Burns that the cross is part of a larger non-religious war memorial honoring all veterans. Cross supporters appealed the appeals court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case and sent the case back to federal court.

Thursday’s ruling by Judge Burns reaffirmed that the cross is an unconstitutional religious display, so it must be removed.

“When men and women go off to war they go off under the flag of the United States, not under a religious symbol,” said Jeff Wergeles, Deputy Director of ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

The government will probably appeal Burns’ ruling, hoping to get a second shot at a hearing by the Supreme Court, McElroy said. Some of the more conservative judges on the Supreme Court might want to hear the case now that the removal of the cross has been ordered, he said.

McElroy said that no one wants the cross to be demolished. He said that if the government’s appeals are rejected, the cross can be moved to a nearby church on Mt. Soledad. But he and the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit want to see it replaced at the war memorial with a more inclusive, non-religious symbol, such as a large American flag.

“The flag would be a perfect solution,” he said.

54 comments

  • Jim

    In god we trust, god has watched over us and blessed us. As we contunue tomputnhim aside he may start pushing us aside.

  • Laura

    I wonder how the Jews will feel when they decide it's unconstitutional to have the Star of David on federal land. Make no mistake, this is the beginning of the end.

    • Lokari

      The cross was originally erected at this location specifically to indicate Jews weren't welcome in the area – the locals thought it should be for Christians only.

  • Tony Torkelson

    This is pathetic . I am not religious at all but is was a part of my life. Seeing this get taken down is not wright . They should give the park to a private group and stop this madness.

    • oddsoxx

      Don't give the park away — sell it.
      At auction to the highest bidder.
      Proceeds to support local families of lost or wounded soldiers.

      Ocean view La Jolla property should fetch a pretty penny.
      A lot of families could be helped.

      Good-on-good.

  • Marina g

    Mt. Soledad should stay!!!! My personal opinion “if the government has time and money to take the cross down! Then there must be money for other things like education!! And not to metion other problems I. San Diego!

  • Cissie Fryer

    I would like to say something about this judge and every politician in our country. "When are u going to grow some balls and stand up against what this country has and does stand for." Back in the early 60's this would have never been heard of. Ever since people from other countries have come here there seems to be something they have to choose to challenge because of their black heart or just pure hatred for what we stand for. I am so sick of turning the TV on each day to hear that something else is being challenged. If u don't like what we stand for, have fought for and believe in, then get the hell out of here and leave us alone. And as for as the ACLU well I can' t put that the words up I have for them. Our politicians need to stand up and say enough is enough. This is our country that was fought by our fore fathers so we could be free and celebrate all our holidays. If I had the money I would go to Washington and stand in front of the white house to ask "Why do you hate us Mr. President?". And ask our politicians to grow a back bone to stand up for what they know in their hearts is the right thing to do. All I hear is that this or that is infringing on my rights. What about our rights. Don't they matter and count for what we believe in. They win their battles and we lose our rights. HMMM …something is very wrong with this picture. If u don't like something then don't deal with it. If you don't like something on TV then don't watch it. I don't care what the issue is, you have a choice not to deal with it. But STOP taking our rights away!!! .I dare the first one to tell me I can't put a flag or cross on the graves my brothers or uncles or any of my relatives that were in the military and have passed away. I have rights as well. And will fight to the death before I take it down. You cannot have a rational talk with an idiot that has put it in their head that just because you have come to a free country that you can just change the rules because it "offends you". I am so sick and tired also of the laws being misinterperted and then it goes the way of the one doing the complaining. But when do you hear "Well what about the rights of the other person or people that believe in it". Oh my I could go on and on. Shame on any judge that says a cross cannot be put up to honor the men and women who have fought for our rights and the rights of the people who are filled with hatred. I wished I had one day just to sit down with our president to ask him "WHY". And even our so called politicians. Doubt if it would ever happen, but they sure would get an ear full. It worries me so much that my grandchildren and other grandchildren have to grow up in this country the way it has become. Shame, Shame, Shame, on all of the people who just full of hatred and have to push what they think is their right and take ours away. Merry Christmas to all. GOD BLESS You Good People and GOD BLESS The UNITED STATES of AMERICA!!!

    • guest

      Typical Christian…I have the right to push MY religious agenda, but the moment someone pushes back you cry foul. Religious displays have no place on govt land. It is inappropriate. It basically says "we are all christians here" which we are not. Nearly every religion in the world is represented in this country. A display by ONE of those groups, is the same as declaring it the state religion. Govt needs to stay OUT of the religion business, and people like you need to stop trying to force YOUR religion on everyone else. Is your belief and religion that weak that you have to put these displays everywhere, to remind you?

    • Josh

      "Ever since people from other countries have come here"? Sorry, are you referring to the colonists or the immigrants afterwards?

      The British certainly had no problem forcing their way on everyone that was already here. People seem to forget you weren't here first.

      I'm a Caucasian of European descent myself, but have enough sense not to claim "it's our land."

  • Dave

    The cross is actually on private land and not federal land as stated on its grounds. I grew up with this cross in my city backyard for my first fifteen years of my life, and the cross is a memorial for all who fought in our wars. I cannot believe how a federal judge wants to take away our First Amendment rights. This cross has been a symbol at Mount Soledad since the Korean War, and I can only pray that God and the ACLJ (the organization who fights for our religious freedoms) can turn this around.

    • Lokari

      It is not on private land. It was owned by the Mount Soledad Memorial Association for several years, but the Federal government took over the property via eminent domain in 2006.
      A cross was first erected on this spot in 1913, as an indicator that the area was for Christians, not Jews.
      The cross was designated as a memorial /after/ the first lawsuits against it, in an attempt to keep it in place.

  • PB GEEK

    Judge Larry Burns, this is your legacy. Congratulations, you are officially a douchebag. I am also not religious, but I agree wholeheartedly with Tony Torkelson and Cissie Fryer.

    • scotty501

      so you disagree with the Constitution which is very clear on this issue. No one cares what you, Toni and Cissie FEEL

  • steve

    Judge Larry Burns you are an ass!!! This is a part of San Diego in as much as Old Town or the Coronado Bridge. For those who brought this suit to you are also asses!!! You sir are a spineless wimp. This has to do with Honoring those who gave their lives not a political statement. Thank you for dishonoring the memory of those who gave you the right to be an idiot!!!

  • Ted Evans

    My Dad was in the military and served thids coutry and was a christian and is now dead. THE CROSS STAYS!!!!! I was born in Long beach, had three heart attacks and a nroken jaw from a uncheck detention at George Bailey. Showed up to court on time with a piece of paper from Clairemont Christian Center. Court threw me in jail anyways. THis coutry seems to forget that Christ died on the cross for this countries and peoples sins, was buried, and rose form the dead on the third day.,…Mr Burns. Neitze said God was dead, and now Neitze is dead. God is not dead, He is surely alive. I pray for you Mr Burns.

  • MAJOR JARHEAD

    WELL… THIS PROVES FRANK BURNS HAD A BASTARD SON NAMED LARRY…
    LARRY TRIED TO DO SOMETHING WITH HIS PATHETIC LIFE BUT ENDED UP A BEING LOSER JUDGE..SO NOW LITTLE LARRY IS TELLING UP TO REMOVE SOMETHING THAT HAS BEEN IN PLACE WHILE LARRY WAS STILL SUCKING HIS MOMMY'S TIT.. NO LARRY IS STILL SUCKING ON THE GOVERNMENT TIT…. WONDER HOW LARRY WOULD FEEL IF A FEW HUNDRED ACTUAL AMERICAN VETS WERE TO REMOVE THAT CROSS AND SHOVE IT UP LARRY'S PATHETIC JUDICIAL REAR END!

  • The Truth

    Maybe you guys should do some research. This Judge fought to keep the cross up and had his decision overturned by the court of appeals. This was a forced decision. Fuckin morons.

  • Gary

    First Amendment:
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF.

    • Lokari

      Since you've capitalized that second clause, I guess you think it somehow applies in this case. But you are incorrect. That clause informs the government what it may do with regards to religious activities of private citizens.
      This cross has long been on *public* (e.g. government) land – not private. It clearly violates the first clause you quoted. Removing it would certainly not in any way prohibit individual religious rights.

      • oddsoxx

        The First Amendment restricts government action, specifically the establishment of or impeding the free exercise of religion.

        The limitations are placed upon the government only.
        Not upon the People, either as a whole nor individually.

        So the question can be raised: does a government entity (the court) have the Constitutional authority to issue an order that interferes with free expression of religion, even on public land?

        • Lokari

          The courts certainly can (and should, and have) rule against government endorsement or sponsorship of religion. That's precisely what this Christian cross on federal land is – an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

    • guest

      Exactly, since it needs to make a law to put the statue up, it should never have been put up in the first place. Free exercise?…not effected, you are free to practice your religion…just not advertise it all over OUR land.
      Removing this symbol from OUR land is the right thing to do…and from OUR courthouses, and from OUR legislative chambers, etc.

  • mikey wongmuang

    I suggest moving the cross to a new location, but I think the judge in this case would not like where I suggest he put it.

  • Jim C

    If you don't like it then don't look at it. So sick of whiny babies crying about every little thing; it goes beyond any type of religion, it is a memorial to service members who fought for this country. I am far from a religious person, but I don't lose sleep over those who are or if I see a symbol of religion, grow up.

    The First Amendment was been completely misconstrued by the SCOTUS and other courts when it comes to things like this. Someone with common sense needs to set the new standard because people today just whine and sue over every little thing they see and hear, makes me sick.

    • Lokari

      "The First Amendment was been completely misconstrued"
      Well, whose interpretation should we accept then? Numerous judges who have spent their lives studying and applying Constitutional law, and who are tasked with upholding that law; or some guy on the web who claims to have common sense?

      • Jim C

        Who cares? Are judges infallible or something? I don't think the government should establish a federal religion or keep people from exercising their religion of choice (or no religion at all). But when it comes down to things like this, it is just a waste of time and money. Don't like the cross, then look away, nobody is forcing it on anyone and it isn't "religious indoctrination". Liberals are worse than the righties when it comes to whining over nothing.

        • Lokari

          Well, congratulations on that ever-so-well thought out reply.
          In point of fact, the cross *is* being forced on us, because it's on federal land. And this is a direct and clear violation of the First Amendment.

    • guest

      I am a veteran, and I would be HIGHLY OFFENDED if someone used a cross in a memorial to me. Was every veteran being remembered a christian?

      • Jim C

        I am a veteran as well, in fact I am still active duty, and I couldn't care less what they use as a memorial to the collective service of our armed forces. The memorial isn't for YOU, if YOU want something for YOU then YOU can pay for and put up whatever YOU want. Stop crying.

        • Lokari

          So, you're suggesting the memorial is only for Christians? This memorial that is on Federal land?
          I would think as a military man, you'd have a bit more respect for the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

  • laura USMC

    the aclu. what a joke. Taking what drives the morals of this country and blasting it. Evidently these people have never been to war of any kind. ACLU abunch of crying little kids that have nothing to do but blast a military cemetary

    • guest

      the aclj is the joke and always has been. They have no concept of justice.

      I am a vetrean and would be HIGHLY OFFENDED with a cross to remember ME by.
      ARe you ONLY remembering the christians? Or are you rememering ALL of the vets?

      Remove the cross, it is inappropriate.

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