Flap Over Cross at Vietnam Memorial in San Diego on its Way to High Court

July 25, 2006

Source: The Boston Globe

Wire Service: AP


On July 25, 2006 the Associated Press reported, "Ronald Reagan had just left office, the Christian Coalition was new, 'values' had yet to become a buzzword of American politics, and six of the current U.S. Supreme Court justices had other jobs when an atheist sued the city of San Diego for permitting a giant cross in a public park. Seventeen years later, the 29-foot concrete monument still crowns a hill over the Pacific, defended by the city's voters and by members of Congress. Now the Supreme Court has stepped in, and the case of the Mount Soledad cross could help determine under which circumstances religious symbols are permissible in public places. The cross, dedicated in 1954 in honor of Korean War veterans, was erected by the Mount Soledad Memorial Foundation, a private, nonprofit group that also maintains the monument. State and federal judges have ordered that the cross be removed, saying it represents an unconstitutional endorsement of one religion. This month, the Supreme Court blocked an order that the city take down the cross by Aug. 1, thus giving state and federal courts time to hear appeals on the matter this fall. The high court has inched toward allowing religious symbols in public places if they have historical value or nonreligious meaning. Two 5-to-4 rulings on separate cases involving the Ten Commandments in 2005 established hazy guidelines on what is permissible: A display inside a Kentucky courthouse was ruled unconstitutional, while a 6-foot granite monument outside the Texas Capitol was OK. 'It's pretty clear you can't display a Latin cross 365 days a year on top of city hall,' said Douglas Laycock, a church-state specialist at the University of Texas law school. 'But this cross isn't at city hall, and it's been there for a long time.'"