Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America

JWV Files Complaint to Remove Mt. Soledad Cross from Federally-owned Property

Summer 2006

The Jewish War Veterans, the American Civil Liberties Union, and local residents of San Diego have brought suit against the U.S. government and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, charging that the continued display of the Mt. Soledad Latin cross on federally owned land unlawfully entangles government with religion and that it should be removed to private property. In a recent press release, the Jewish War Veterans of the USA (JWV) had condemned recent legislation transferring the giant cross on Mt. Soledad to the Federal government as a ploy to protect a memorial that is offensive to non-Christian veterans who have served our country with bravery and distinction. Despite this ploy, judicial opinions over the years have deemed the cross monument unconstitutional as a Church-State matter. Over these objections, legislation transferring jurisdiction over the cross was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush. The Los Angeles Times in a recent editorial has stated: "Whether viewed as a war memorial, an icon or a place of worship, the cross is an extremely visible symbol of one religion. It occupies arguably the most prominent piece of public real estate in the city, which is in a state where the Constitution is even more exacting than the U.S. Bill of Rights about the separation of church and state." As we noted in a letter to Congress protesting that action, "For years, federal and California state courts have consistently held that the Latin Cross atop Mt. Soledad is a religious symbol, notwithstanding efforts to portray the Cross as merely part of a memorial to honor those that have died in service of their country." The cross on Mt. Soledad clearly communicates an inappropriate message of favoritism and endorsement of the majority faith, a message which is inconsistent with the requirement of government neutrality in religious affairs. The JWV filed this action confident that future court decisions will uphold previous decisions deeming it unconstitutional. It is consistent with the action taken by JWV in the early 80's resulting in a Federal court decision removing a similar cross from Camp Smith in Hawaii. Veterans of all faiths have served and died, and continue to serve and die in the war against terrorism, to uphold the tenets of our Constitution, including the separation of church and state. It is an affront to non-Christian veterans for their service to be commemorated by a cross. The JWV condemns this property transfer as an attempt to circumvent previous rulings and feels confident that future judicial rulings in this case will deem the cross on Federally-owned property to be unconstitutional. The full text of the complaint can be found at the JWV web site, http://www.jwv.org.

 

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