Group slams ruling as 'insult' to troops

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A war memorial cross in a San Diego public park is unconstitutional because it conveys a message of government endorsement of religion, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in a two-decade old case.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the unanimous decision in the dispute over the 29-foot cross, which was dedicated in 1954 in honor of Korean War veterans.

The court said modifications could be made to make it constitutional, but it didn’t specify what those changes would be.

“In no way is this decision meant to undermine the importance of honoring our veterans,” the three judges said in their ruling.

“Indeed, there are countless ways that we can and should honor them, but without the imprimatur of state-endorsed religion.”

U.S. Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said the federal government, which is defending the cross, was studying Tuesday’s ruling and had no comment.

The Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based Christian legal group, called the ruling an insult to troops.

“The memory of those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom shouldn’t be dishonored because the ACLU finds a small number of people who are merely offended,” said Joe Infranco, the group’s senior counsel.

The ruling is the latest in a series of court decisions that have deemed the Mount Soledad cross unconstitutional because it stands on public property.

The legal fight began in 1989 when atheist Philip Paulson sued the city of San Diego over the cross. Paulson, a Vietnam War veteran, contended that the cross excludes veterans who aren’t
Christian. Jewish veterans groups also complained the cross excluded them.

State and federal judges have ordered the cross removed, saying it represents an unconstitutional endorsement of one religion. But in 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked an order that the city take it down that summer, giving lower courts time to hear appeals.

City officials have argued that the cross is part of a secular war memorial, and the cross has been embraced by San Diego residents who in 2005 overwhelmingly approved a measure to preserve it by donating it to the federal government.

A judge declared the measure unconstitutional.

Infranco said Tuesday that no one is harmed by the presence of a cross on a war memorial.

“It’s tragic that the court chose a twisted and tired interpretation of the First Amendment over the common sense idea that the families of fallen American troops should be allowed to
honor these heroes as they choose,” he said.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (6)
  1. Duh! says:

    How is the ruling an insult to troops?
    The cross may very well be an insult to Jewish troops, Muslim troops, Mormon troops, and even atheist troops as it does not represent their religion.

    Remember, “separation of church and state” means that the government does not tell you what religion you should worship. The cross, can very well be interpreted that the government is advocating Christianity if the government is paying for it.

    Now if Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church (who seems to have millions of dollars to throw around from a non-profit church) were to pay for the cross, then it would be fine.

  2. John Deer says:

    They build a 60′ Menorah on the white house lawn and dare declare a Cross unConstitutional? Are you going to allow a few ziobolsheviks to oppress your freedoms?

  3. Otis J. says:

    Once again, here is yet more proof that organized religions are the single biggest cause of most trouble and turmoil in the world today.
    The fact is that if there were really a “God”, he would NOT APPROVE of any of the major “Religions” that all try to pass themselves off a holier than thou. Total BS!
    Wise up folks, the “church” is for chumps….

  4. A REAL American says:

    John Deer you are disgustingly ignorant excuse for a supposed American. Exercise your freedoms in public but don’t expect the government to endorse them or your religion or other ideal. When you put a permanent fixture on public land then the government cannot allow it to stand as an endorsement. Put the object in YOUR yard or other private property. You are not fit to be an American with your ignorant attitude and you should deport yourself immediately you unpatriotic buffoon.

  5. mister s says:

    As an atheist and a veteran, I say just let this one go. The cross isn’t hurting anyone except the few who feel excluded, and while they have a right to complain, there are far more important issues of church and state that need fighing.

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