Saturday, December 14, 2013

District Court Orders Mt. Soledad Cross Removed; Appeals Expected

On Thursday, yet another opinion was handed down in the litigation challenging the constitutionality of the cross that is part of the Mt. Soledad veterans' Memorial. Various lawsuits over over the 43-foot high cross on public property in California have spanned 24 years.  In 2011, the 9th Circuit (see prior posting) held that the Memorial conveys an endorsement of religion that violates the Establishment Clause, but added: "This result does not mean that the Memorial could not be modified to pass constitutional muster nor does it mean that no cross can be part of this veterans’ memorial." The 9th Circuit remanded the case to the district court to determine the appropriate remedy.

After attempts to appeal the 9th Circuit's ruling were rejected, the district court in Trunk v. City of San Diego, (SD CA, Dec. 12, 2013) has now held that the cross must be removed.  It said that despite the 9th Circuit's statement that changes in the Memorial might make it constitutionally acceptable, language in the 9th Circuit's opinion "makes it clear that removal of the large, historic cross is the only remedy that the Ninth Circuit conceives will cure the constitutional violation."  This is unlikely to be the last word, however, because the court also stayed its order pending the resolution of any appeal.  Liberty Institute says that it will appeal the ruling, all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. Wall Street Journal reports on the decision.