Judge Blocks 'Religious' Southern Calif. Monument

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A federal judge has blocked a city in Southern California from putting up a memorial for veterans because it includes a cross.

Lake Elsinore City Council had agreed to pay $50,000 for the polished black granite monument. It would include the illustration of a soldier kneeling before a grave topped by a cross.

The American Humanist Association complained that the monument violates the separation of church and state.

"It is a violation of the First Amendment when a government body unnecessarily chooses a divisively religious means of honoring the country's veterans," William Burgess, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said.

City officials noted the cross was a generic illustration of a grave, pointing out that in addition to the cross it includes a flag and an eagle.

But U.S. District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson said the memorial was "unmistakably religious."

"The fact that the Latin crosses and Star of David do not dominate Monument 2 cannot take away from the unmistakably religious message they send to any objective viewer," he wrote.

"The Latin crosses and Star of David are immediately noticeable to even the most casual passer-by; they appear on the front of Monument 2," he continued. "In contrast to the concededly non-sectarian images that appear on the front of Monument 2 - the text, the American flag, and the bald eagle - the sectarian symbols are illuminated in white."

The case will go to trial Oct.1.

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