Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America

JWV Litigates Mt. Soledad Memorial

Fall 2006

The Jewish War Veterans of the USA (JWV) is currently in litigation to have the Mt. Soledad cross removed or relocated from the Federally-owned land on which it now stands. The cross ostensibly stands as a war memorial to all veterans, although it is a symbol of one specific religion and not of the diversity of religions to which our veterans' community belongs and has belonged since the earliest days of our country. A religious symbol of this kind on Federal land constitutes a presumed government endorsement of one religion, a violation of the principles of the separation of Church and State, which is a fundamental First Amendment tenet of the Bill of Rights. That is why the JWV successfully sued to have a similar structure removed from Federal property at Camp Smith in the 1980s, and that is why the JWV is currently litigating to have the cross removed or relocated from Mt. Soledad. All of the court decisions in such cases, including the final decision in the Camp Smith case, have upheld the principle that such a display represents a violation of the separation of Church and State. The Unites States Constitution is a vibrant and vital road map for our democracy based on diversity. It is not a one-way street immutable in its interpretation for the past, present, and future. The obvious intent should not be camouflaged, and the value of the Constitutional obligation must be preserved. Yet it is not intransigent as a hard fast rule. For example, the JWV fully supports that individual headstones in Federal cemeteries can bear the symbol of the religion of the person whose grave they mark. The individual symbol on each grave is not to be construed as an endorsement of one religion over the others. The range of religions represented on these headstones is a testament to the religious diversity of this country. It is a pictorial representation that, in our country, service people from all religions have fought and died to defend ingrained principles of liberty and democracy which must be the ground rock of our Nation.

 

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