A deadline is looming for U.S. Atty. General Eric Holder. Between now and next Monday, he must decide whether the Justice Department will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case of the Mount Soledad Cross in San Diego.
Last year, a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco– the most liberal, most activist federal appellate court in the country – ruled that the cross must be torn down because it stands on public land.
Of course, the 29-foot tall cross has stood on public land since it was erected way back in 1954. And not until 1989 did anyone raise a constitutional fuss about the cross’ presence on the site.
What particularly offends foes of the Mount Soledad Cross is that the site on which it stands is considered hallowed ground by San Diego’s Christian community, which held an annual Easter Sunday sunrise service at the foot of cross for more than a half-century.
All that changed when the cross got tied up in local, state and federal litigation by plaintiffs who professed to be acting in the public interest, who maintained that they simply want to ensure that the city abides by the constitutionally-required “separation of church of state,” but who really were hostile to Christianity, who really had animus toward Christians.
The city ofSan Diegohas gone to extraordinary lengths over the past two decades to address the constitutional issues raised by anti-cross plaintiffs and courts.
They sold the land of which the cross stands to a private, non-profit association. When a federal district court judge objected to the terms of that sale, they resold the land under terms they thought acceptable to the judge.
Then the Ninth Circuit objected to the sale, ruling that it violated California law. That prompted the city decided to transfer the land to the federal government for use as a memorial for war veterans. But the court objected to that too.
So two San Diego lawmakers, Reps. Brian Bilbray and Duncan Hunter, recently sent a letter to Atty. General Holder requesting that the Obama administration ask the the nation’s highest court to decide the two-decade old constitutional dispute over the Mount Soledad Cross once and for all.
“This Memorial, a tribute to our war dead, must be defended vigorously,” the lawmakers urged.
It remains to be seen how the Obama Justice Department responds. If it decides not to petition the Supreme Court on behalf of the cross, it will be an affront to Christians and an insult to those who’ve lost their lives in service to this country.