Tag Archives: San Diego

Is This The Last Chapter Of The Mt. Soledad Cross Saga?

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image of theMount Soledad CrossIt was reported last week that the Federal government passed a law that allowed the land underneath the Mount Soledad Cross in San Diego to be sold to a private Christian front group. The sale seems to bring an end to a 26 year court battle to have the cross removed from a public park. The case and end result shows how hard some religious conservatives will fight for their privilege and for their symbols. It is a sad day for the 1st Amendment.
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Religious Right lies about Mt. Soledad Cross

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The US Supreme Court, more specifically Justice Anthony Kennedy, issued a stay of a lower federal court ruling that said the Mt. Soledad Easter Cross is unconstitutional and it needed to be removed from the city of San Diego’s property by August 2nd or the city would be fined $5,000 a day. U.S. District Judge Gordon Thompson Jr. issued his final ruling back in May to end the 17 year legal battle (see my previous post Enough is enough San Diego – move the dang cross ).

A stay is issued to give the justices time to read legal briefs from both parties in order to decide if they will hear the case as part of their regular docket. The stay was needed because the court may not get to hear the case before the fines start to add up.

Of course the Mayor of San Diego and the Religious Right think that Justice Kennedy’s actions means they have won the case.

It isn’t the first time that the religious right have lied about this case in the past 17 years in their quest to keep the unconstitutional cross up on city property. Plaintiff Philip Paulson issued the following points this week:

* Every annual publication of the Thomas Brothers Map from 1954 to 1989 presented a geographic legal description of the location as the “Mt. Soledad Easter Cross” after which year (cross case was filed on May 31, 1989) the name of the legal location on the map was changed to the “Mt. Soledad Memorial.”

* There was no placard or marker to be found anywhere on Mt. Soledad Natural Park nor at the site of the Mt. Soledad Easter Cross to indicate that it was a veterans’ memorial until after 1992, when the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association installed such a marker with a “Veterans” memorial inscription.

* Every Easter holiday sunrise since 1954 was an occasion at Mt. Soledad for local Christian worship services to celebrate the crucifixion of their concept of a deity and messiah Jesus Christ.

* The Mt. Soledad Cross was dedicated to “Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” in a dedication bulletin by the grandmother of William J. Kellogg, President of the Mt. Soledad memorial Association on Easter Sunday, 1954.

* The Mt. Soledad Memorial Association made improvements to the property within Mt. Soledad Natural Park. All improvements were unwisely added while litigation proceedings were taking place. “Six concentric walls hold 3,200 black granite plaques purchased by donors and engraved with the names and photos of war veterans — currently more than 1,700 are in place.”

* The Mt. Soledad Memorial Association claims that the site for the Veterans’ Memorial on Mt. Soledad Natural Park was dedicated on Easter holiday to commemorate and memorialize those who died during the Korean War era, but the cross clearly shows preference and discrimination only for Christian veterans. The Mt. Soledad Easter Cross is not a sacred symbol for non-Christian veterans, and it may be cogently argued that the presence of the Mt. Soledad Easter Cross demeans them with second-class citizenship status in their own country. The symbol arrogantly proclaims that “Jesus Rules San Diego.”

The other lie the religious right and supporters of the cross are spreading is trying to smear U.S. District Judge Gordon Thompson Jr. as a liberal – activist judge. Thompson was appointed to the bench in 1970 by President Nixon and those who know him or worked for him say is not a liberal or an activist judge.

Thompson is many things, but those who know him – former law clerks, lawyers who have been in his courtroom, former colleagues – say there are two things he most certainly is not: liberal or activist.

Instead they describe the judge – now 76 and on senior status with the court – as a rock-ribbed, serious-minded jurist with a reputation for handing down tough sentences in criminal cases.

“His reputation is he is a no-nonsense, law-and-order sort of judge,” said Peter Nunez, who was one of several U.S. attorneys in San Diego during Thompson’s stint on the bench. Nunez also was the first law clerk Thompson ever hired, shortly after he was sworn in October 1970.

“He is not an activist judge or anything like that, by any means,” Nunez said.

Judge in cross case praised by colleagues

This case has been fought for 17 years and the city and cross supporters have lost every time a judge has heard the case. In fact the US Supreme Court refused to hear a city appeal in 2003.

But the religious right and the pandering city officials who keep this case alive follow the same pattern the so-called Christians seem to follow – lying, name calling, character assassination, fraud, delays, and contempt of court. Kudos to Philip Paulson for sticking with it for so long to make sure the city of San Diego follows the court order.

Enough is enough San Diego – move the dang cross

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I get complimented on my patience all the time. In fact a friend told me at one time that it was one of my flaws.

However when my patience is tested I tend to snap and today I snapped when I read this article on the net:

By The Associated Press

A legal advocacy center founded by television evangelist Pat Robertson has announced it will enter the legal battle to save a giant cross atop San Diego’s Mount Soledad.

A federal judge last week gave the city of San Diego 90 days to remove the 29-foot-high cross or face $5,000 a day in fines.

The Washington, D.C.-based American Center for Law and Justice said Monday that it will support San Diego’s effort to seek a stay of the judge’s ruling.

“We believe that the city of San Diego has strong legal arguments to ensure that the cross on Mt. Soledad remains in place,” said Jay Sekulow, the center’s chief counsel.

News briefs from San Diego County

The article continued that the Mt Soledad Cross has been the subject of a 17 year court fight started by Philip Paulson.

The city has lost every legal hearing and every scheme to keep the cross has failed. The last attempt to change the result was to have a resolution that was on the local ballot to allow the city to offer the parkland the cross sits on to the National Park Service – the reason being that if the land was under the NPS then the cross would stay. A state judge ruled that ballot initiative was unconstitutional. That ruling is being appealed.

Last week the federal judge didn’t seem impressed.

In his ruling, Thompson said he has spent years hearing arguments over the cross, as have other courts.

“Consistently, every court that has addressed the issue has ruled that the presence of the Latin cross on Mount Soledad, land which is owned by the city of San Diego . . . violates Article I Section 4 of the California Constitution,” he said in his order.

And, he said, two cases that came up at the same time as this one – involving a cross on Mount Helix and a cross on the La Mesa city seal – have long since been resolved.

Judge threatens fine to enforce ’91 ruling

Of course the Mayor doesn’t see the writing on the wall:

The mayor said an appeal would be worth the money, but acknowledged he didn’t know what an appeal would cost the budget-strapped city.

Sanders justified continuing the legal battle despite Aguirre’s advice and the city’s dismal record of fighting it in court because, he said, most San Diegans believe the cross should stay.

“Seventy-five percent of the voters said they thought it was extremely important. I think we need to go to an appeal,” he said.

Just move the dang cross!

Mt. Soledad Cross: Good Christians should obey the law

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The past few years we have seen a few court cases about the separation of church and state in the news. Like the 10 Commandments decisions in June, the Pledge case being tossed out on a technicality, and Judge Moore’s rock-o-commandments in Alabama, usually these cases glow white hot, a decision is made, and the parties abide by the ruling and move on.

There is one case that is has been in the courts since 1989, where several decisions have been made, and one of the parties has pulled every legal trick in the book to keep from having to abide by the court’s decision.

It is the case of the Easter Cross atop Mt. Soledad in San Diego California.

A cross has been on Mt. Soledad since 1913. The current 44 foot version was erected by a private group in 1954. The problem is the cross is in a park owned and maintained by the City of San Diego.

In 1989, Philip Paulson and Howard Kreisner filed suit in Federal court to have the cross moved off public land. In 1991, Judge Gordon Thompson, Jr., a judge for the US Southern District of California, ruled for the plaintiffs. He said the cross violated not only the US Constitution but the California state constitution. The judge ordered the city to remedy the violation.

Naturally, the city appealed. In 1992, they also tried to subvert the ruling by selling the small plot of land under the cross to the private Mt. Soledad Memorial Association without any competitive bidding. Judge Thompson ruled the sale a sham and ordered the city to comply with the original ruling.

Paulson, who never wanted the cross dismantled, even negotiated a home for the cross at a nearby church, but the city ignored the offer and continued to appeal the case.

In 1994, the city appealed to the US Supreme Court but the appeal was rejected. By then 44 Federal judges had ruled against the City of San Diego.

Most rational people would just move on and accept the ruling. But we are talking about a religious symbol and those symbols just seem to make people crazy.

In another effort to subvert the ruling, granite walls with tributes to fallen soldiers from San Diego was added around the cross in 2000 and in 2004 a plan was hatched to transfer the “veteran’s memorial” to the National Park Service. Supporters of the cross figure that if the Federal government has it then the cross won’t have to be moved.

In July of 2005, voters passed Proposition A that would allow the city to transfer the cross to the Federal government.

The case which has been going on for 16 years is still not over with the vote. The courts will now review if the vote was Constitutional and if the vote remedies the violation.

Supporters think it does.

Joshua Gross, a spokesman for San Diegans for the Mount Soledad National War Memorial, said support at the polls could influence the judge.

“A judge is always going to be inclined to follow the will of the people, the will of the voters,” Gross said. “The higher that number, the more inclined they’ll be. That’s just logical.”

Soledad cross measure wins; issue will still head to court

But that isn’t true.

When Colorado passed a amendment to their constitution stripping civil rights protection from gays, the US Supreme Court ruled against it.

Civil Rights are not open to popular vote nor should they be. To do so is simply un-American. As Supreme Court Justice O’Connor said in the recent Kentucky 10 Commandments case:

But the goal of the Clauses is clear: to carry out the Founders’ plan of preserving religious liberty to the fullest extent possible in a pluralistic society. By enforcing the Clauses, we have kept religion a matter for the individual conscience, not for the prosecutor or bureaucrat…. [Government] may not prefer one religion over another or promote religion over non belief…. It is true that many Americans find the Commandments in accord with their personal beliefs. But we do not count heads before enforcing the First Amendment.

The city and supporters of the cross need a reality check. I wonder sometimes what good could be accomplished if the same energy expended to save a religious symbol was channeled into eliminating hunger, poverty, or unemployment. We could have a much better world, better than some old religious symbol could ever make happen.

For further info:

San Diegans for the Mt. Soledad National War Memorial

Removing a Sectarian Symbol from Mt. Soledad Public Park