Calif. Supreme Court refuses to hear Mt. Soledad cross case


SAN DIEGO — In another victory for supporters of the Mt. Soledad cross war memorial in San Diego, the California Supreme Court said Feb. 21 that it will not hear an appeal on Proposition A, a ballot measure approved by voters in 2005 that transferred the land beneath the cross to the federal government.

A California appeals court had ruled unanimously in November that the measure was legal, after a Superior Court judge had ruled in October 2005 that the measure was unconstitutional because it violated the ban on government preference or aid to religion.

Lawyers for Philip Paulson — the atheist who sued 17 years ago to have the cross removed — asked the state Supreme Court to review the appeals court ruling, but the justices refused.

"We're extremely pleased that the California Supreme Court has decided to reject this case which effectively brings an end to state litigation to remove the Mt. Soledad cross memorial," Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, said in a news release Feb. 22. "This represents the latest in a series of legal victories to keep the cross in place, and we're confident that the final legal challenge — now in federal court — will ultimately fail as well."

After the passage of Proposition A, President Bush signed into law a bill that took the land by eminent domain and made it the property of the federal government. That legislation is being challenged in federal court.

"The cross memorial is an important symbol honoring veterans of our military," Sekulow said. "We believe this memorial will survive the final round of legal challenges and remain in place, and we will continue our legal work to that end."

The ACLJ filed an amicus brief with the California Supreme Court in February on behalf of 20 members of Congress, asking the court to reject the appeal.

Officially known as the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial, the monument was dedicated in 1954 as a memorial to veterans of the Korean War, although it now honors veterans of all wars and includes hundreds of black granite plaques honoring past veterans. It stands 29 feet tall, 43 feet tall including its base.

The cross has been at the center of a legal battle since 1989 when Paulson, a veteran, filed suit seeking to remove the cross by arguing, among other things, that it violated the U.S. Constitution's and California constitution's prohibition on government-established religion. Since then, multiple appeals and additional lawsuits have been filed. Paulson died last fall.

Throughout the process, supporters of the cross — including San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders — have fought to find a way to keep the monument up.

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