Mount Soledad Cross Case Heads Back to Court

ACLU and veterans' group face off over modification of Soledad Cross

After a federal court ordered the Soledad Cross be modified, the legal fight is now over who should be involved in the planning.

A hearing Friday is the latest installment in the long-standing controversy surrounding a 29-foot cross erected on public land overlooking La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean.

The American Civil Liberties Union says a veterans' organization should have no say in legal talks over how to modify the cross.

A federal judge in San Diego will hear arguments on whether the Mount Soledad Memorial Association should participate in negotiations between the ACLU and the Department of Justice.

David Loy of the ACLU in San Diego says the veterans' organization maintains the memorial but does not own it and therefore has no right to decide how the property should be reconfigured.

The veterans association says it erected the 29-foot cross in 1954 and should be involved in its modification.

The legal fight over the Mount Soledad cross began in 1989 when atheist Philip Paulson sued the city of San Diego. Paulson, a Vietnam War veteran, contended that the cross excludes veterans who aren't Christian. A Jewish war veterans group has also been a plaintiff in the case along with the ACLU.

State and federal judges ordered the cross removed, saying it represents an unconstitutional endorsement of one religion. But in 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked an order that the city take it down that summer, giving lower courts time to hear appeals.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to rehear the case of the war memorial cross in a public park that was deemed to be an unconstitutional mixing of government and religion.

A group trying to preserve the cross as a memorial to military veterans appealed to the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court would not take up the issue.

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Copyright AP - Associated Press
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