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Thomas More Law Center: Full Court Press To Save the Mt. Soledad Cross

ANN ARBOR, MI – The eyes of the world are on the future of the 43-foot concrete cross centerpiece of a veterans war memorial, which has stood atop San Diego’s Mt. Soledad for the last fifty years. On May 3, 2006, federal district court Judge Gordon Thompson ordered the City of San Diego to remove the cross within ninety days or face fines of $5,000 per day thereafter.

Judge Thompson’s ruling ignored the results of a special election held in July 2005, in which 76% of San Diego voters approved Proposition A mandating that the City transfer the land to the federal government as a national memorial. A state court judge recently ruled that Proposition A violated the California Constitution.

Yesterday, the Thomas More Law Center’s West Coast Regional Office filed a 49-page opening brief in the California appellate court, challenging the state judge’s ruling on Proposition A. Also filed was a motion to expedite the appeal in an attempt to have the issue decided before the ninety-day federal court deadline to remove the cross has expired. If the appeal is successful, the Mt. Soledad Cross and national memorial would be transferred to the federal government. Such a transfer would moot the federal court order, which is based on a finding that the cross on City property violates the California Constitution.

Charles LiMandri, Director of the Law Center’s West Coast Regional office, reflected the resolve of Law Center lawyers to save the cross, “Those heroes who are honored by the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial did not surrender and did not flee, and neither will we. Rather, we will continue to honor their memories by fighting to preserve the same freedoms many of them died defending. We owe them no less than our best.”

The Law Center has also filed a motion to intervene in the federal district court case on behalf of San Diegan for the Mount Soledad National War Memorial, the group responsible for the hugely successful petition drive on Proposition A. That motion will allow the group to immediately appeal Judge Thompson’s order and seek a stay of his order in the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals.

Law Center attorneys are also discussing the possibility of White House intervention with Department of Justice attorneys, whereby President Bush would take the Mt. Soledad Veterans memorial under the federal government’s power of eminent domain.

In 2004, the United States Congress passed a law designating the memorial a national veterans memorial and authorizing the acceptance of a donation of the memorial and surrounding property from the City for the purpose of preserving the memorial intact. That law, a result of legal research by Law Center lawyers, was ushered through Congress by California Congressman Duncan Hunter, who played a significant role in its passage.

A number of other prominent organizations have also joined the fight to save the Mt. Soledad Cross, including the American Family Association, the American Center for Law and Justice, the Liberty Legal Institute and the Alliance Defense Fund representing the American Legion.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center commented, “It is a bitter irony that our Nation just celebrated Memorial Day in recognition of the many sacrifices made by our brave veterans who have fought for our freedoms on battlefields throughout the world, and yet we have one atheist represented by an ACLU-backed lawyer using the courts to effectively destroy a memorial honoring these same veterans. ”

For further information on the Mt Soledad Cross controversy you may visit the Thomas More Law Center website at www.thomasmore.org .