The decision of a federal district court in California today to order the removal of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial is deeply flawed. At the ACLJ, we will continue to fight to defend this memorial honoring our nation’s heroes as we have been actively doing for years. I have directed our legal team to prepare an amicus brief in support of an expected appeal to keep the memorial – which includes a commemorative cross – in place.
This latest decision in the long and winding legal road concerning the constitutionality of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial is deeply flawed. The federal court decision declaring the memorial unconstitutional and ordering its removal does not square with the facts. This memorial is part of the historic landscape of San Diego and is consistent with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
This new legal decision is the result of action that occurred in 2012 when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take the case, leaving in place a decision by the 9th Circuit declaring the memorial unconstitutional, and sending the case back to the trial court in San Diego. The ACLJ urged the Supreme Court to take the case at the time, filing an amicus brief representing 34 members of Congress.
And in an amicus brief filed in August 2013 with the U.S. District Court representing 18 members of Congress, we urged the court to permit a private organization to obtain and operate the war memorial – a remedy that would remove any constitutional questions and keep the monument and cross in place.
Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ruled that the memorial must be removed because it violates a constitutional ban on government endorsement of religion. “Deliberate language in the 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,” Burns wrote in his ruling.
Judge Burns ordered the memorial be removed within 90 days, but put that order on hold pending an expected appeal.
We will continue to aggressively argue in support of this memorial and commemorative cross. We believe the law and precedent are clear: the Supreme Court has concluded in the past that “a Latin cross is not merely a reaffirmation of Christian beliefs. It is a symbol often used to honor and respect those whose heroic acts, noble contributions, and patient striving help secure an honored place in history for this Nation and its people.” This memorial should not create a constitutional crisis. It is part of the history and heritage of the San Diego area.
Though my own military service is winding down, for now (I transferred to the Individual Ready Reserve earlier this year), I’m still a veteran. That’s a part of my identity now, and it will be for the rest of my life. Military service is becoming less common with each American generation .
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