For Immediate Release
July 18, 2006
Contact: Hugh Newton
Washington, D.C. – July 18, 2006 – The American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) filed a friend of the court (amicus curiae) brief today in the California state appeals court in San Diego urging the court to uphold the constitutionality of the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial, which includes a 29 foot tall cross.
A Federal statute enacted late in 2004 designated the Mt. Soledad Memorial as a Federal national veterans memorial, and provided for the transfer of its ownership from the City of San Diego to the Federal government. The City approved the transfer after an extended process including a public referendum in which 76% of voters favored the transfer and preservation of the cross. But a state Superior Court in San Diego issued an injunction prohibiting the transfer of ownership claiming it would involve an unconstitutional establishment of religion. This left the memorial subject to a previous ruling requiring the City to tear the cross down. The ACRU filed its brief today in the appeal of the Superior Court’s decision.
Previous court decisions found the cross at the memorial to be unconstitutional under provisions of the California Constitution. But the ACRU brief argues that with the passage of the Federal statute providing for transfer of the memorial to the Federal government as a Federal national veterans memorial, those provisions of the California Constitution have been preempted by federal law under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and no longer apply.
The brief states, "Surely, virtually no one in San Diego really thinks that by this transfer [of the memorial to the Federal government] the City government means to adopt an official endorsement of Christianity and an official disapproval of other religions and city residents who adhere to them."
The brief further makes the point that, "Crosses are ubiquitous at every Federal national veterans memorial in the country. Because the public expects to see crosses at veterans memorials, they do not perceive the crosses as an endorsement of the Christian religion and a disapproval of other religions."
The brief concluded that the Memorial and its transfer to the Federal government would not violate the Federal Establishment Clause because the cross is now in the broad context of an extensive national veterans memorial. The courts have routinely permitted the government display of religious symbols in a broader context, with secular components.
The ACRU is a non-partisan 501c(3) legal policy organization dedicated to defending all of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment, not just those that might be politically correct or fit a particular ideology. Those setting ACRU policy as members of the Policy Board are former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III; former U.S. Solicitor General and former Federal Circuit Court Judge Robert H. Bork; former U.S. Solicitor General and now Pepperdine Law School Dean Kenneth W. Starr; former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights William Bradford Reynolds; George Mason Law School Professor Walter E. Williams; former Harvard University Professor James Q. Wilson; former Ambassador Curtin Winsor, Jr.; and Dean Emeritus of the UCLA Anderson School of Business J. Clayburn LaForce, Jr.