Jun 25, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court today announced that it will not hear a long-running controversy over a 43-foot-tall cross displayed on government-owned property in San Diego.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State welcomed the court’s refusal of the case. The Christian cross, Americans United says, is not an appropriate symbol to memorialize deceased veterans of many different faith perspectives.

“Crosses belong in sacred spaces, not on public property,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “It’s time to move on and create a memorial that honors all of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country.”

Litigation over the Mt. Soledad cross has been under way for nearly 20 years. Several federal courts have ruled against its display on city property. In an effort to save the cross, the federal government acquired the land underneath the structure in 2006.

“The Mount Soledad Cross was originally erected for religious purposes and was only belatedly given the designation of a war memorial,” Lynn observed. “A cross cannot stand for the service of all military personnel, because not all of them are Christians.”

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year in Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America v. City of San Diego that the religious display violates separation of church and state.

Americans United and other groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the appeals court to reach that conclusion.

AU’s Lynn said the appeals court made the right decision and there was no need for the Supreme Court to hear another appeal.

“Government represents all Americans and has no business endorsing sectarian symbols,” Lynn remarked.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.