Judge: Cross is War Memorial

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A federal judge says the giant cross atop San Diego's Mount Soledad can stay.

The controversial cross was set in 1954 as a memorial to the veterans of the Korean War.

The American Civil Liberties Union has fought for years to have the cross removed, saying the display on public lands is unconstitutional. The first stream of lawsuits about the cross began in the late 1980s.

However, U.S. District Judge Larry Alan Burns disagreed with that sentiment. He ruled that the cross is more a secular memorial to war veterans than a statement promoting religion.

"The court finds the memorial at Mt. Soledad, including its Latin cross, communicates the primarily nonreligious messages of military service, death, and sacrifice," Burns wrote in his decision. "As such, despite its location on public land, the memorial is constitutional."

The ACLU says they may appeal the decision.

"If you want to put a cross on your front lawn... we will be the first to defend you," said David Blair-Loy, legal director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. "When the government is sponsoring and endorsing the preeminent symbol of one religion, that's when we have a problem."

The group is discussing further legal action. An appeal is "clearly on the table," Blair-Loy said.

William J. Kellogg is the president of the Mount Soledad Memorial Association. His grandfather was a member of the local American Legion Post that dedicated the concrete cross as a memorial more than 54 years ago. Kellogg says his group is pleased with the judge's decision.

"The decision was based on the fact that it is clear it is a veterans memorial," Kellogg told The Los Angeles Times. "That's what our association is all about."

Kellogg explained that a cross has been atop Mt. Soledad since about 1913.

Source: The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times

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