Ninth’s Decision on Mt. Soledad Veterans Cross “Defies Common Sense,” ACRU Says
A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the 57-year-old concrete cross atop the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego is unconstitutional. The decision runs counter to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a similar case at the Mojave National Preserve veterans memorial.
“This decision appears to be rooted more in a desire to rid the public square of prominent reminders of America’s religious heritage than it does in a desire to protect the sensibilities of people who happen to see the cross. It distorts the Constitution’s First Amendment, ignores recent court precedents, and defies common sense,” said Susan Carleson, Chairman and CEO of the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU).
The ACRU filed a brief in the case (Jewish War Veterans vs. the City of San Diego) in 2009 in which ACRU General Counsel Peter Ferrara noted that,
With a clear, simple standard rooted in the text of the Constitution and its surrounding history, this case is easily resolved. The cross at the federal Veterans’ Memorial atop Mt. Soledad does not involve an unconstitutional establishment of religion because it does not involve coercion of any sort. It just sits there, without any specified message….
Each visitor to the memorial is free to decide what the cross, and the memorial overall, means to them. They can take the cross as an expression of reverence for the nation’s veterans, including those who suffered the supreme sacrifice. They can take it as an expression of hope that these lost loved ones will be seen again in some unknown future. They can take it as an expression of some religious message. However each visitor interprets the cross, they are also free to then accept or reject the message that they each discern.
Mrs. Carleson added: “We expect the cross will fare better if the full court or the Supreme Court reviews the decision and rejects this twisted interpretation of the Founders’ constitutional intent to secure true religious freedom and civil rights. The ACRU will be ready to file another brief in the expected appeal.”