(RNS) The decades-long battle over a cross erected on public land in California will drag out even longer now that the Supreme Court declined Monday (June 30) to hear the case.

The Mt. Soledad cross was installed in 1954. It rises 29 feet and its arms span 12 feet.

The Mount Soledad cross was installed on public land in San Diego in 1954. Creative Commons image by Jun Pinili

In the last full day of the current session, the court said the case must first go to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals before the high court will consider it.

The conflict in Mount Soledad Memorial Association v. Trunk, is over a 43-foot cross that sits atop Mount Soledad on public land in San Diego. The cross was erected in the 1950s and has since become a veterans’ memorial.

A veterans group that maintains the cross asked the Supreme Court to let it leapfrog over the 9th Circuit after a lower federal court ruled last December that the cross should come down.

But Justice Samuel Alito, who also issued two majority decisions for the court on Monday, said the Supreme Court would wait for another ruling in this case.

“The Court of Appeals has not yet reviewed (the lower court’s decision) on appeal,” Alito wrote. “Any review by this Court can await the decision of the Court of Appeals.”

The Mount Soledad cross has a long history of legal wrangling. The first challenge came in 1989, before the land surrounding it became a veterans’ memorial.

In December, a federal court in San Diego ruled the cross should come down because it violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and promotes one religion — Christianity — over others. But the same court granted a stay, allowing the cross to remain until the veterans had a chance to appeal.

The decision by the Supreme Court to send the case back to a lower court could mean the case will last at least another two to three years.

YS/AMB END WINSTON

13 Comments

  1. Kimberly,

    This is a very interesting case. I like the fact that Alito has abstained from a decision as the question here should be whether the primary intent of the cross is to communicate religion or to memorialize veterans. If the latter then it should stay, if the former then it must go, to be consistent with the many past decision barring religion from public property. However, I wonder how long it will be, before they tear down the facade of the Supreme Court and its interior walls.

    • There are some atheists who just have a real mean streak in them is all I can say. Let’s put up a few statues of Benjamin Franklin or Bertrand Russell or other prominent atheists in our parks for parity and then just chill. The idea expressed in the Constitution isn’t that Government doesn’t have anything to do with religion, but rather that it doesn’t favor one religion over another.

      • Benjamin Franklin was no atheist. He always considered himself a Christian. What’s more is that during the Constitutional convention:

        “It was Ben Franklin who, at a critical impasse during the Constitutional Convention in June 1787, attempted to introduce the practice of daily common prayer with these words:
        … In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. – Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. … And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance?. I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: … I therefore beg leave to move – that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service.”

      • No. A mean streak is the idea of stealing public land for yourself and your religion in a way that excludes others. Essentially the public park equivalent of a “tramp stamp” by Christians.

  2. If the thought is that our government may not establish or promote any religion versus another, why then can it give our taxes to international nations as “support” who are officially based on one regionally predominant religion?

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