Supporters of keeping the Mt. Soledad memorial cross “as it is, where it is” were bolstered July 26 when U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ruled the towering cross is primarily a secular war memorial, and not a religious symbol.
“The court finds the memorial at Mt. Soledad, including its Latin cross, communicates the primarily non-religious messages of military service, death, and sacrifice,” wrote Burns.
It’s been nearly 20 years since the constitutionality of the Korean War memorial cross on public land atop Mt. Soledad was first challenged.
The Vietnam war veteran and avowed atheist who initially fought the cross’s presence, Philip Paulson, died of cancer. Jewish War Veterans and the ACLU of San Diego picked up Paulson’s cause and are now challenging the constitutionality of a Latin cross on public land.
Reacting to Burns’ decision, James McElroy, the plaintiff’s attorney, said it wasn’t unexpected.
“No matter what this judge decided, this case was going to the Ninth Circuit (Court of Appeals), he said, adding that he anticipates the next legal round could take 1 1/2 to two years to culminate.
Pro-cross activist and military veteran Myke Shelby, was guarded in his reaction to the most recent judicial decision favoring the cross. “I’m not confident we’re going to win every time,” said Shelby.
Shelby talked about why he is so passionate about defending the cross. “It’s a piece ... of history,” he said.