A two-decade fight over the Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial in San Diego took a solemn turn when an appeals court ruled the towering tribute to American War Veterans is unconstitutional and favors the Christian religion.
The war memorial overlooks San Diego and contains six concentric walls that contain 3,200 black granite plaques, purchased by donors, etched with the names and photographs of war veterans.
Built in 1952 on public land, the cross at the war memorial has been ground-zero for a decades-long constitutionality battle in San Diego.
Once word of the court decision reached two San Diego Congressmen they promptly wrote letters to the Department of Justice Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates urging them to defend the San Diego landmark.
“For more than a half-century, the Mount Soledad Memorial has been a fixture of the San Diego community, honoring not only the service and sacrifice of the brave Americans whose stories are told by the monument’s plaques, but millions of others who served in defense of our nation,” said Congressman Duncan Hunter Jr. (R-CA).
“The Ninth Circuit’s decision is a disservice to these men and women and blatantly ignores the Memorial’s proud history as a symbol of military service. I’m confident the Memorial will remain intact as the judicial process proceeds, but it’s important the federal government does whatever it can to defend the Memorial and ensure it remains untouched,” Hunter said.
Echoing Rep. Hunter’s views was Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) who continues to fight for the rights’ of service members and a Memorial that honors servicemen from his family.
“The Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial holds a very special place in my heart because the plaques of my father, brothers, and stepfather are among the thousands of stories of military service. It is unfortunate that the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals continues to politicize this sacred Memorial and obstruct the memories and history the landmark proudly represents,” he explained. “I strongly urge Attorney General Holder and Secretary Gates to join Congressman Hunter and myself in continued defense of the memorial.”
For the time being, opponents of the Memorial have won. However the battle continues as the appeals court did not mandate the 43-foot cross to be immediately torn down.
The American Civil Liberties Union, a co-defendant, responded quickly and affirmed the court ruling saying it validated their legal principles.
“This is about fundamental principles and freedom of religion,” said David Blair-Loy, the legal director for the San Diego ACLU told the Union Tribune. “Our view has always been the best way to protect freedom of religion is to keep government out of religion.”
Members who have fought to keep the cross war memorial in place vow to take their fight to the U.S. Supreme Court if the lower court mandates the removal of the landmark.
The new lawsuit was filed by the Jewish War Veterans, the ACLU and individuals who question a cross being placed and maintained on federal land.
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