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January 4th, 2011
11:18 PM ET

Appeals court says cross on federal land is unconstitutional

By the CNN Wire Staff

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a cross displayed on public property for nearly a century is unconstitutional.

Three versions of the Christian symbol have been erected atop 822-foot Mount Soledad in the posh La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California, since 1913.

The current 43-foot cross was erected in 1954 in honor of Korean War veterans and has been the subject of near constant judicial back and forth since 1989, when two Vietnam War veterans filed suit against the city, saying it violated the California Constitution's "No Preference" clause.

Read the full story about the court's ruling on the San Diego cross

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Courts

soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Maynard G. Krebs

    I thought that making idols was forbidden by the ten commandments. This cross sure qualifies as an adol as the commandments state it.

    January 5, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • CR

      what are you taking about?

      January 6, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  2. Enoch

    What about the plus sign (+) which is used to represent the notion of positive?

    January 5, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Well, as long as you don't nail anyone to it, it could be seen as a positive.

      January 5, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @MarkinFL

      LOL...!!!!!! Priceless...! 🙂

      Peace..

      January 6, 2011 at 1:00 am |
  3. Amalia Sheran Sharm

    That thing is always surrounded by deathclaws anyway.

    January 5, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  4. frank

    I am a Christian, and I believe in separation of church and state. I wouldn't mind seeing other religions having their symbols and statues up, but will they? Christians are known to profess our faith, and these crosses demonstrate that. If people are so upset about seeing crosses, lets put up other symbols from all religions. But I don't see other religions jumping up and showing their symbols, so if Christians are the only ones putting up symbols, why is that wrong?

    January 5, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @frank

      Hi frank...

      Besides the fact that it is basically illegal under almost all circ-umstances.

      One reason... Imagine your closest 'public' park filled with Islamic minaret's w/star and crescents, along with Christian crosses, not to mention all the symbols of all the other religions... do you see where this might get a bit much...yes...? Where would it end...? Would there be restrictions...? And if so, who would decide and how many of all the different symbols...? In general, I believe part of the aspect of public lands is to keep them 'religion free zones' as far as structures, and any other things that people want to just put up on said 'public property' etc...

      Then, extrapolate that out to other 'public' land or venues... I know, I for one, don't want our public lands filled with religious symbols... of any kind.

      Now, i'm not a const!tutional law attorney, and I could be wrong about my whole assesment to your question, however, I do believe that these are at least some of the reasons why it is... 'wrong' as you questioned.

      Peace...

      January 5, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Just because followers of other religions have enough courtesy not to trash up the landscape with their personal symbols hardly gives license to Christians to do so.

      January 5, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  5. Mike, not me

    I don't believe so since you do see the capitalization but it begs the question then who is god? How do learn about him?

    January 5, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Luke

      Many people, including myself, say the word god casually. Much the same way Einstein would use the word god. Einstein didn't believe in a personal god, such as Yahweh, the god of the bible. But he often said the word god, respresenting the unknown. In any event, our early leaders may have taken an oath to god, but god was an open term and was different from person to person. Taking an oath to God, Yahweh, is totaly different.

      January 5, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  6. Mr. Sniffles

    Almost all of our politicians swear in on a Bible, but clearly that does no good at all. They may as well swear in on a comic book.

    As Mencken said, "Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good."

    He also said, "Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary."

    January 5, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Luke

      Swearing on the bible is a relatively new thing. In the past, politicians swore on their honor. Also, some of our former Presidents were Masons. In Masonic tradition, they are masters of the Old and New Testiment in addition to the Koran and other religious books from around the globe. It's only in this modern era of nonsense that we start to see bibical traditions invade our government. The reason, of course, was that a politician or group of politicians that claim to be of one religion could claim ownership of the masses. In this case, America is mainly Christian. Hence, the politicial strategy of the Republican Party was to associate themselves as much as possible with Christianity. It was a political tactic, not anything genuine.

      January 5, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Mike, not me

      The phrase "So help me God" is explicitly prescribed in oaths as early as the Judiciary Act of 1789 for U.S. officers other than the President

      But since it is the same years as Washington it is still debated amoung historians as to what Washington oath was

      Either way I would say that any statement that people swore by honor instead of God is false

      January 5, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Luke

      Mike, not me

      You're confusing god with the God of the bible. They are two very different things. Far too many people confuse this.

      January 5, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  7. Reality

    The Supreme Court of the USA might see it differently.

    April 29, 2010-"An 8-foot cross honoring fallen soldiers in the remote Mojave National Preserve in California can stay where it is, because the Supreme Court said Wednesday that the Consti-tution nowhere requires the "eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm."

    Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing the lead opinion in a 5-4 decision in which several justices wrote separate concurrences and dissents, compared the Mojave Cross to a hypothetical highway memorial marking the death of a state trooper to make the point that such displays "need not be taken as a statement of governmental support for sectarian beliefs."

    "The Const-itution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion's role in society," Justice Kennedy said in his opinion. "Rather, it leaves room to accommodate divergent values within a const-itutionally permissible framework."

    January 5, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • Maynard G. Krebs

      My impression is also that the Supreme Court will not order it's removal. That's what you get from having conservatives stack the deck in the Court so that it has all the wisdom of a drunken bowling team in Arizona. They won't remove "In God We Trust" from money either. I cannot imagine the idiot who is so feeble-minded that he would be converted by a tacky cross on a hill or an inscriptionon a nickel – though there are probably a few of those.

      The thing to do is to erect an Islamic Crescent right next to it, and make it about 5 feet taller. Then our loving Christian friends will understand what the fuss is about.

      January 5, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Dobie Gillis

      Cool, baby. Real cool.

      January 5, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Neeneko

      @Maynard

      That is not far off from what actually happened.... though that fact has been rather under-reported.

      January 5, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  8. CR

    What about the crosses at Arlington national cemetery?

    January 5, 2011 at 3:44 am |
    • Know What

      Arlington National Cemetery has upright rectangular markers - not crosses. There is a selection of small religious emblems which may be inscribed on the front of these markers as chosen by the next of kin of the deceased.

      The extensive displays of cross-shaped markers that you may be thinking of are in Europe.

      January 5, 2011 at 5:29 am |
    • Luke

      There are none there.

      January 5, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • ttwp

      They are crosses at Arlington. Both Robert and Ted Kennedy have crosses at their gravesites.

      January 5, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Know What

      ttwp,

      Correct. The Kennedy's are exceptions to the general rules however.

      "According to [Cemetery Superintendent] Metzler the Kennedy markers are the only two simple white crosses at the cemetery, and Section 45 is one of the only areas where crosses are permitted. The headstones in the surrounding area of the section are of all shapes and sizes, including larger granite crosses, in contrast to the simple white stones that dominate here." - The Washington Post

      January 5, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      I would not imagine any conflict when it comes to grave marker. Each individual should have whatever they like if it is an option. It is not as if it is a truly public space. The graves are individual soldiers.

      January 5, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • Mike, not me

      http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/images/ANC_surroundings/PAGES/image40.html

      January 10, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  9. Gary

    I am agnostic but not politically correct. The cross should not be a big issue. This country was founded on Judeo-christian teachings. Biblical references in government buildings and government land is the norm for this country. Its on our currency too. Logical aetheists and agnostics need to keep their mind open and not make a big deal of it.

    January 4, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Despite the reference to (an unspecified) god, there're lots of additional historical do-cu-ments about the founder's beliefs, clarifying their intent and clearly saying the US is not a Christian nation. When asked, the courts have been very consistent about the display of tribal symbols, and this one will probably be taken down, like many before it, as it should be. With respect to atheists, I think it is quite amusing that the veterans asking for the cross to be removed are not atheists! I agree this is a good time for atheists to stand back and watch the believers scrap it out.

      January 5, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Gary

      So, I am assuming from your post that it should and would be o.k. if the Muslim's put their 'star and crescent' everywhere they want, the Jew's to put up the 'star of david' everywhere they want, and the Buddhists, and the Hindus, etc...

      You get my point...? If you are to allow one religious symbol to be o.k. on public lands, and exclude others, then you've got a bit of a problem... yes...?

      Peace...

      January 5, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • David Johnson

      We must challenge any religious symbol that is placed on public land. I do not for a second believe that the Evangelicals would be happy with one cross. If no one raises the issue, there will soon be two. I shudder to think where it will end.

      Cheers!

      January 5, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • Neeneko

      The error in this story is that atheists had anything to do with this case. This all originated with someone wanting to set up a similar memorial where another religion could honor American soldiers from its faith who died. The local church, caretaker and park, said no. The court gave them the choice of either allowing other religions to put up symbols too OR removing the cross. The caretaker decided that the idea of honoring non-christian soldiers was so abhorrent that they would rather remove their cross then allow other symbols there. So atheists were not part of this narrative... just another religion wanting equal treatment and christians demanding exclusive access.

      January 5, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Mike, not me

      Ah yes, treat everyone as equal... do you really mean to say that we should treat the Branch Davidains as an equal faith??

      January 5, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      @Mike, not me

      Yes, why not? Aren't their beliefs as valid as the next believer's?

      January 6, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Mike, not me

      Hi Mike... Happy New Year to ya'...! Hope that you are well.

      You Said: "Ah yes, treat everyone as equal... do you really mean to say that we should treat the Branch Davidains as an equal faith?"

      I am sincerely interested on your viewpoint here. I believe, from your prior postings that you are a Christian...yes...?

      If I am correct in my assumption about your faith, what do you think about Christians being allowed to place all the crosses and symbols, etc... that they want on our 'public lands'... i.e.. parks, etc...?

      For me, as you can see in my prior postings, I certainly don't want 'any' symbols... Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Scientology... and yes, including any Christian symbols....and that would include 'all' the different denominations or sects of Christianity, including the -Branch Davidians...!

      I think you know from my posts as well, I am an agnostic, so I am not a 'basher' of any particular religion, and I keep an open mind, but I would like to keep our public parks, and any public spaces a 'religion free zone.'

      So, yes, in a sense, 'equal treatment' for all... as far as 'not' allowing any religious symbols out in the public, as that could cause a race to see who can 'litter' or 'over-populate' the public square with the most religious symbols, especially if, to be fair, 'all' religions were then allowed to put up their symbols. Make sense...?

      You've got your churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, etc... and your own private abode that you are free to do as you please.

      In essence, you can' just allow the Christians full reign to do as they please, but not allow others to do the same, as ... that (wouldn't) be fair...yes...? And if we allow 'all' religions to put up their symbols, then... we have quite a mess... true...?

      Plus, who would decide what goes up...? How many...? Who's allowed to and who isn't...?

      Anyways, these are some of my thoughts so far on this subject... but stay tuned, as with me... you know, there is always more coming...!

      Thanks -Mike...

      Peace...

      January 6, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Mike, not me

      Happy New Year Peace… and peace and grace to you. Hopefully it is not too late to respond that hopefully you will see this. I will give it my best effort.
      Yes, I am a Christian. My overall view point is that in the grand scheme of things it does not matter if they remove the “structure” or not. We are commanded to respect those in authority. I do have a concern that decisions like this will help destroy the first amendment and the prohibiting of free exercise to religion.
      The reason I call it a structure is that there are a lot of facts missing from this story to make an informed decision. First is the cross a representation of what Christ has done for us and those people laying in the graves, then it is a Christian Cross. If not, then it is a Latin cross symbolizing death. I believe it is the later since no organization claimed building it, “in honor of Korean War” and all the people around the structure are in fact dead.
      What irks me is some of the false assumptions that go around “Christian exclusivity”, the fact that we in America can understand hardship, rewriting history and tolerance for everyone but the Christians.
      You have people on this board and in California saying they are tired of being “force” to look at this thing. Go tell the woman sold into human trafficking about what it is like to be “forced” to do something. Go tell the refugee that has to flee their country because their government is trying to kill them or imprison them for a freedom we take lightly what it is like to be “forced”. Go tell the Haitian that has no home what it is like to be “forced” to look at something. Fact of the matter is if these people were forced to look at this, then the party that held them against their will should be arrested on at least assault, no?
      Then there is the town that seemed to try and do the correct thing, but was shot down for “failing to solicit bids”. But it doesn’t say that the people that called them on it was not interested in the property, no they just didn’t want anyone else to get it. Childish. I use to walk in a private Jewish cemetery where almost every stone had a star of David on it, the joys of private ownership.
      The judicial system in this country is skitsofrantic at best. What does this mean for the cross at sun rise rock, and there was another one that was erected for a state trooper that was allowed to stay. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote, is that "the Const-itution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion's role in society." And this is one of the issues I do have, it is a violation of the first amendment to prohibit free exercise, and judgments like this I believe bring us closer and closer to that prohibition.
      Now assuming that the cross is a Christian symbol. There is this other fallacy that we then have to allow every other symbol on or that is discrimination. The problem with that is rules can be defined as to how much space is allotted and the maximum size of each symbol. Then it’s first come first serve. I cannot accuse Jimmy Jones discrimination if I do not get a seat to the super bowl this year. There is a max capacity.
      And this is something friends and I have been debating for lately. What is the difference or where is the line between having standards and discrimination. There was a dating website that was shut down because it required the participants to be Christian. How you go about validating that is another topic. But why was this not ok? Why do we have Mensa, the League of Woman Votes, and the NAACP? None of which I can be a member being a Caucasian male with an IQ of 80 (the 80 part was a joke never took an official IQ test). Can I then cry to someone and tell them that I was “force” to live an unsatisfying life because those groups have standards? Can I appeal to Texas A&M if I don’t meet the entrance requirements? But put up a dating site that is designed for people of the same faith and all of a sudden that is outrageous. The intolerance of those Christians how dare they be exclusive they need to be more tolerant, to show them we should be “unwillingness to recognize and respect differences in opinions or beliefs” toward all Christians. I would laugh if it wasn’t sad.
      Whew, I think that is it. Maybe a little scattered brain. Sorry you got all my pent up thoughts. I have been trying to stay away from here because of the above.
      Again have a happy and safe 2011.

      January 7, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  10. HotAirAce

    YES!! No matter how the believers tried to circ-umvent the law, it didn't work. I'm very confident that if this does go to the Supreme Court the result will be the same.

    January 4, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • Let Us Prey

      It pains me to say it... but I agree. I have no interest in being forced to look at minarets or crescents either...

      January 4, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @HotAirAce & Let Us Prey

      Agreed...

      Peace...

      January 5, 2011 at 1:53 am |
    • Mike, not me

      But, it did work for almost 100 years?

      January 5, 2011 at 9:28 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.