Judge says giant cross must be removed from San Diego mountain

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By Lateef Mungin and Mayra Cuevas

(CNN) — A giant cross that has stood on a Southern California mountain for decades must be removed because it violates the constitutional separation of church and state, a judge ordered this week.

The order Thursday by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns continues a long legal battle about the 43-foot cross atop Mt. Soledad in San Diego.

Burns ordered that the cross would have to be removed within 90 days. But the cross may be able to stay if the case is appealed, the judge ordered.

“Of course we are disappointed in what the ruling is — that is to take the cross down,” Bruce Bailey, president of the Mount Soledad Memorial Association told CNN affiliate KGTV.

Bailey said his organization plans to appeal, which would mean the cross would stay as the decades-long legal battle continued.

Long legal battle

The cross was erected in 1954 in honor of Korean War veterans and has been the subject of near constant judicial back and forth since 1989, when two Vietnam War veterans filed suit saying it violated the California Constitution’s “No Preference” clause.

Since the first lawsuit in 1989, the city of San Diego twice tried selling the property beneath the cross to the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, only to be stopped by the courts.

In 2004, the parties involved reached an agreement that would have moved the cross to a nearby church, but two congressmen intervened and inserted a rider into the 2005 omnibus budget bill that designated the property a national veterans memorial and authorized the federal government to accept the donation of the property.

This led to more fights and more court filings.

In 2006, three congressmen pushed through a bill calling for the government to seize the property by eminent domain — calling it “a historically significant war memorial.” The federal government took possession in August of that year.

A lawsuit was filed challenging that transfer almost immediately and that has led to Thursday’s ruling.

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  • Brian Michael Owens

    So whats next? People who do not like a certain church or any church for that matter will be able to sue them and make them move their church? This is ridiculous. We live in America people, Ever heard of freedom of religion? Get over it idiots. And, Before you go and bash me for defending the cross, realize that I am LDS and we do not worship the cross. This is about our freedoms folks.

    • Alex Delarge

      So if someone doesn’t agree with you, then they are idiots? Your nothing more then a typical bigot! Why should your “freedoms” trump other people’s “freedoms”? Then to state your LDS is very telling!

    • Sherilyn Sowell

      Agreed Brian…..what I don’t understand is why people care? If they choose not to believe in a God, or any representation of Him….then to them He doesn’t exist….so why even care if there is a cross or a statue of an Alien from outer space there. If I didn’t believe in a God, it would or would not make me a good or bad person. It would be my right to believe. BUT if I didn’t believe….I could care less if a statue or symbol is there? Btw…I am LDS also. Just saying….now let the discontented post flow. As I am finding people love to hate over the internet…..an interesting but sad fact. Merry Christmas to all….and to all a good night.

  • michael

    just leave it up who cares if it offends people act like an adult and just deal with it or find something to do with your boring life

  • confused

    Alex…I think what Brian meant to say is that some people are empty inside themselves and so they are easily offended. They create controversy,because they can.Laws get really technical and should work to protect our freedoms..But lets pretend to be real Alex..Say there were no such laws..We just had to rely on humans having HONOR,RESPECT and DIGNITY? That cross and many others was something sacred to someone,Which in turn touches me with warmth.Why should that be offensive to me?Why should I hurt others over something so trivial? Because of the dirt it is on?Does it hurt when they drive by a cross on a church,a synagogue,atheist building, monk temple? Do they just close their eyes as they drive a church? Does our country hold families at gunpoint and threaten their lives if they don’t join a certain religion? If we unburied a sacred old religious stone from a religion and it is on “public property” do we insist it be removed?

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