Wednesday, July 12, 2006

San Diego cross to remain, pending appeal

My comment: I thought you might want to hear about this ... I've been following the story for quite some time. Plus, I thought the photo was awesome. Let me know what you think or even if you think...

By Robert Marus
Association Baptist Press
Published July 10, 2006

WASHINGTON -- A controversial cross will stay high atop a hill in a San Diego park at least until a federal appeals panel determines its fate, thanks to a Supreme Court justice.
With a special order on the evening July 7, Justice Anthony Kennedy halted enforcement of a lower court's edict that the Mount Soledad cross be removed from the spot where it has stood since 1954. Earlier in the week he had temporarily granted cross supporters' request to delay the upcoming deadline while he considered the application's merits.
The 29-foot-high monument, located prominently at the crest of an 800-foot hill in a city-owned park, has been at the center of a legal dispute for more than 15 years.
In May, U.S. District Judge Gordon Thompson issued the latest in a string of rulings against the cross, claiming it violates the California Constitution's ban on government endorsement of religion. He gave the city 90 days to remove the monument -- or begin facing daily $5,000 fines.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will consider the case in October, but had denied cross supporters' request to delay enforcement of Thompson's order until then.
Kennedy issued the ruling because he is the justice assigned to hear emergency requests from the 9th Circuit's boundaries while the Supreme Court, which ended its 2005-2006 term June 29, is in recess.
In an opinion explaining his ruling -- rare in such cases -- Kennedy said the case's circumstances "support preserving the status quo while the city's appeal proceeds. Compared to the irreparable harm of altering the memorial and removing the cross, the harm in a brief delay pending the court of appeals' expedited consideration of the case seems slight."
Kennedy also noted recent actions -- a move by Congress to designate the monument a federal memorial and a 2005 decision by San Diego voters to transfer the property to the federal government -- as making it "substantially more likely" that the federal Supreme Court would eventually agree to consider the issues in the case. The high court has denied appeals to hear the litigation at previous stages.
The cross's legal saga began in 1989, when a local atheist and Vietnam veteran, Phillip Paulson, sued the city for removal of the structure. He argued that the monument was clearly intended as a religious symbol and that its presence in so prominent a position in a city park suggests government preference for Christianity.
Attorneys for the city have argued that the monolith is simply a monument to veterans. Although some version of a cross has stood on the spot for the past century, the present version was dedicated as a Korean War memorial on Easter Sunday in 1954. It gradually grew to include plaques and walls with the names of casualties from the Korean conflict and other wars.
Paulson's attorneys have argued, however, that the private group that maintains the site did not add the commemorative elements until after the lawsuit was filed and that the cross continues to play a prominent role in Christian worship services.
Cross supporters have attempted to sell the property to a private group to solve the dispute, but state judges have said that also violates the California Constitution. A lower state judge has ruled that the attempt to transfer the property to the federal government is also illegal, and an appeal regarding that matter is still pending in the state's courts.
The case is Paulson v. City of San Diego.

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