Battle Over Mount Soledad Cross Drags On

    Ado About Soledad Cross Overblown

    Like so many spats in the ongoing war over the separation of church and state, the Mount Soledad Cross would be thoroughly boring and unworthy of bothering with if it weren’t for the things that are said and done in defense of it.

    Why some non-Christian and atheistic groups might get annoyed over it isn’t hard to understand: it’s a giant cross planted on one of the highest points in North County. All the talk of war memorials can’t quite overshadow that basic point, and no matter how tired anyone is of seeing another story featuring Christians and the ACLU screaming at each other, it probably can’t match how tired non-Christians are of being expected to greet ubiquitous Christian symbols with a smile.

    Yet as Christian influences on communities go, the Soledad Cross isn’t that big of a deal. It’s not sitting in front of a courtroom or government building, and it is a war memorial, which traditionally feature religious symbols. Normal people wouldn’t waste one second caring whether it stays or goes. Constitutional lawyers aren’t normal people, they are people who can only work out the nuances of their profession by forcing judges to set down workable guidelines for how many crosses you can have, how big they can be, if Jesus can actually be on the cross, etc. Fine, let them.

    From the way Christian groups talk, however, you’d think people dumped pig’s blood on the cross and danced a naked samba around it. Whether or not religious symbols can be built on public lands is not a trivial question, yet Christian groups routinely greet lawsuits challenging symbols with outrage and cries of victimization.

    As in the furor over the Ten Commandments monuments in Alabama and Georgia, Christian leaders have taken public stands on the issues in ways that make them look far dumber than the plaintiffs ever manage. Meanwhile, non-Christians are forced to root for judges to take away their toys until they learn to play fair.

    — Hanna Camp

    Senior Staff Writer

    Politics Again Trump Compromise

    Key to current haggling over the Mount Soledad Easter Cross will be the precedents set by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The case of Lemon v. Kurtzman established the so-called “Lemon Test,” which determines if federal legislation about religion is constitutionally sound. The test has three requirements for constitutionality: first, the government’s action must have a legitimate secular purpose; second, the main effect of the legislation must not be the advancement or inhibition of religion; and third, the legislation must not result in an “excessive entanglement” of the government with religion.

    Whether the federal acquisition of the Mount Soledad site meets these criteria is subject to interpretation, of course. And for decades, civil liberties groups, veterans groups and concerned citizens have tussled with each other about various interpretations of what the Mount Soledad Easter Cross actually means.

    Is it an endorsement of religion? Is it a war memorial? Is it a fantastic place to watch the sun come up over the hills, and go down over the Pacific? The simple answer: Yes.

    To an atheist concerned about his first amendment rights, a 50-foot cross cannot help but be a blatant promotion of one religion by the government. To the mother whose son met his end somewhere north of the 38th parallel, the monument is an emblem of personal sacrifice for the greater good.

    And just as the cross’ existence is a constitutional affront to one, its removal is nothing less than an insult to the other.

    Ultimately, the legality of the cross’ presence on government land will be decided by an opinion of a court, and not the opinion of the masses. Legally speaking, the impassioned bickering from both sides is irrelevant. But the cross will always be relevant to the people on both sides of the debate.

    From my non-Christian perspective, a strict interpretation of the first amendment would require the cross to be taken down. But I have a profound respect for what the cross means to others. And to me, this respect for the beliefs of others is the true intent of the first amendment.

    — Nathan Miklos

    Opinion Editor

    Simple Solution: Cross Must Go

    Even after 93 years, the city of San Diego still doesn’t get it.

    Since the construction of the Mount Soledad Easter Cross in 1913, it has caused endless argument over the legality of its presence on public property, and has brought wasted attention to a simple debate between church and state.

    Religious symbols do not belong on city land. And for those who argue that the cross was intended as a war memorial for the veterans of the Korean War, this just isn’t true. In fact, the site did not begin to memorialize veterans until 1989, 76 years after its construction.

    But recently federal lawmakers have further convoluted the situation by intervening, making the entire situation a shameful example of the government’s blatant disregard for the long-standing tradition of separation of church and state.

    After the president’s recent signing of bill HR 5683, both the Mount Soledad National Park property and the cross located on the grounds will become federal property.

    As if it were not bad enough that the city was unable to disentangle itself from its legal battles, the federal government has to step in and take ownership of an obviously religious symbol.

    What will become of the battle now is quite another story, as the American Civil Liberties Union has gotten involved in arguing against the constitutionality of the cross’ presence.

    Hopefully the supporters of the cross will realize that its symbolic meaning would be best appreciated on a site where open religious favoritism was more tolerated — perhaps the private property of a church or Christian organization. There they would be free to celebrate their faith without having to confront the ethics of the nation.

    — Natasha Naraghi

    Associate Opinion Editor

    Cross Deserves Its Location

    The giant cross on the summit of Mount Soledad has stood above the San Diego skyline for nearly a century — and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be allowed to stay forever.

    Established in 1913, the cross has survived numerous attempts at desecration, and served as an impromptu Korean War memorial until its official dedication in 1989.

    Though the icon definitely serves as a symbol of the Christian religion, as an integral part of an important American memorial, it is now meant as a symbol of remembrance and hope more than as a symbol of Christian faith.

    Congress was right to use eminent domain to seize the land on which the cross is standing as well as the memorial surrounding it, which in recent years has evolved from a simple plaque to a more elaborate setup including granite walls, additional plaques and a flagpole.

    Those who argue that the cross is offensive need to grow up. The cross is a symbol of San Diego history and the people who built it had no intention to offend — or convert — anyone. Other religious symbols across the United States have been afforded federal protection as historical monuments, including the missions along the California coast, which began as churches but now represent an important part of the history of the Golden State.

    I am definitely not a religious person and I do not identify with any particular religion, but I see no reason why the cross should be removed.

    True, the cross may have begun with religious undertones, but the cross’ meaning has evolved along with the city itself, and now serves as a timeless reminder of American war deaths. To remove it would be to desecrate history.

    — Matthew McArdle

    Senior staff writer

    First Amendment Violation is Clear

    The Mount Soledad Easter Cross is a blatant violation of separation of church and state, plain and simple. As a Christian symbol, it is entirely inappropriate to be so prominently displayed in such a public area. Now that there is controversy, as people take legal action to bring down the cross, the religious right is up in arms. And with such a majority of people so apathetic these days, the victim card seems to be working. But it is important to not let supporters of the Soledad Cross off the hook.

    One common argument in defense of the cross is that it has in recent years become a war memorial.

    Let’s get real, people. The cross, which has in some form existed atop Mount Soledad since 1913, has only been a war memorial since 1989 — in response to a lawsuit that it violated the “no preference” clause in the California Constitution.

    But come on, a tiny plaque at the bottom of a gargantuan cross isn’t fooling anyone. It’s true that since ’89 the memorial has expanded and now includes many plaques and photos, but if it’s really the memorial that Christians are fighting to save, they need not worry. Let’s keep the memorial and ditch the enormous, overpowering religious symbol — easy solution!

    The mere fact that there is so much support for the cross clearly shows why it must be taken down. If the monument in question were, say, a giant star of David, it would have been gone long ago. But the Christian religious right is so dominant and capable of manipulating the situation that people seem to lose sight of the law.

    The whole purpose of a separation of church and state is to deny any religious group a federal preference, and that is exactly what we are seeing in the case of the Soledad Cross.

    — Hadley Mendoza

    Senior Staff Writer

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