A veterans group wants the Supreme Court to end a decades-long legal dispute over a memorial cross on a San Diego mountaintop that a lower court has found unconstitutional.
“Only this Court can bring an end to this litigation,” the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association wrote in its petition to have the case heard by the high court.
At issue is a 43-foot-tall cross that has been on a hillside looking over La Jolla and Mission Bay since 1954. It is part of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial.
In December, a federal judge ordered the cross must come down because it violates the Establishment Cause of the Constitution, unlawfully endorsing one religion over others. Opponents of the cross have argued that it is a religious symbol on government land and violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
In their petition, however, the veterans group asks Supreme Court justices to step in and review the decision, explaining that there are hundreds of plaques honoring veterans of all religions surrounding the base of the cross.
“The context and history of the Memorial make clear that its primary purpose and effect is not to endorse religion, but to honor veterans,” the petition states.
In 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the cross violated the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, and it was sent back to federal court in San Diego, where the December ruling was issued.
Veterans warned justices that by refusing to hear the case, they could be putting other war memorials in the same legal quandary.
“As long as the Ninth Circuit’s decision stands, it puts into question the legality of hundreds, if not thousands, of veterans’ memorials across the country,” the petition states.
If the Supreme Court does not review the case, it lets the lower court's ruling stand. The order states the cross must be moved within 90 days.