SAN DIEGO (AP) – A judge on Thursday ordered that a war memorial cross atop a San Diego mountain be removed from federal property in 90 days but said the ruling would be put on hold if it is appealed.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns wrote that “it’s time for finality” in the case, 22 years after another judge ordered the 43-foot cross atop Mount Soledad to be taken down.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2011 that the cross violated the constitutional separation of church and state. After the Supreme Court declined review, the case went back to Burns to consider possible alternatives.
Burns rejected arguments that Congress may eventually agree to transfer the land to a private party.
“If a transfer were underway or were imminent, or there was a strong prospect of a transfer, the question would be more difficult,” he wrote in a five-page ruling.
Burns said he believed the cross doesn’t represent a government attempt to promote religion but acknowledged that the appellate court ruled differently.
The lawsuit names Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as a defendant. Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle declined to say if the government will appeal.
Charles LiMandri, an attorney for the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, said Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has signaled that the group backing the cross could return directly to the nation’s high court if it disapproved of Burns’ ruling.
“Unless the U.S. Supreme Court denies review or takes it and finds it unconstitutional, that cross isn’t going anywhere,” LiMandri said. “At that point, we’ll go to Congress. We’re not giving up.”
The American Civil Liberties Union represented the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America and several local residents to challenge display of the cross.
“We support the government paying tribute to those who served bravely in our country’s armed forces,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “But we should honor all of our heroes under one flag, not just one particular religious symbol.”
The cross, which offers sweeping ocean views from San Diego’s La Jolla area, was used for Easter celebrations in the early 1900s and became a memorial to Korean War veterans in the 1950s.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Skin Cancer in Arizona: Stats, facts and new immunotherapy drugs making strides
- Distracted walking injuries end up not so funny
- Scary situations: 5 quick tips before you let a contractor in your home
- Four ways telemedicine is changing the health care industry
- 5 mistakes homeowners make in the spring
- Three rivers run through it: Exploring Arizona's waterways
- Smart home basics: things you need to know to get started
- 5 Surprising things causing back pain
- Arizona agriculture is a $17.1B industry
- Timeline: Arizona's roots in brewing history
- 5 reasons to love the D-backs this season
- Tips for taking your home entertainment experience to the backyard
- Tech-related injuries your parents never experienced
- Workers comp: Signs your co-worker could be a fraud
- Who's the real founder of America's pastime?
- Epidemic rising? What you need to know about Alzheimer's in Arizona
- 5 unforgettable Wooden Award winners
- Family and hard work are keys to success of modern dairy farmers
- Genetic testing could hold answers for colon cancer survival
- Cold beers and baseball: A beer lover's guide to Spring Training
- Telecommuting: 5 tips to make it work for employers and employees
- See how top CFOs feel about economic growth in the Valley
- Migraine myths that keep patients from effective treatments
- Here’s why Gaydos went tankless with his water heater
- Bocce ball and basketball: How you can help Arizona's Special Olympics athletes
- Tips on building the best wine room in Arizona
- Avoid the nightmare: 6 tips to choose a great contractor
- Breast cancer: Improved testing and treatments means more survivors
- Failed back surgery: New hope for patients living in pain
- Ticking time bombs: Telltale signs your water heater is about to explode