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Ninth Circuit Denies Rehearing in Mount Soledad Cross Appeal

By Robyn Hagan Cain on October 21, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Will a 43-foot cross soon be removed from a San Diego hilltop?

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 6-5 vote, denied a rehearing request this week in a case debating whether the Mount Soledad Cross violates a constitutional ban on the government endorsement of religion.

The cross and the veterans' memorial on Mount Soledad have generated controversy for more than 20 years.

Court records indicate that the Mount Soledad Cross was dedicated in 1954 "as a reminder of God's promise to man of everlasting life and of those persons who gave their lives for our freedom." The primary objective in erecting a cross on the site was to construct "a permanent handsome cast concrete cross," but also "to create a park worthy of this magnificent view, and worthy to be a setting for the symbol of Christianity."

For most of its history, the Cross served as a site for annual Easter services. After the legal controversy began in the late '80s, a plaque was added - along with substantial physical revisions - designating the site as a war memorial. Veterans' organizations began holding regular memorial services at the site in the late '90s.

In January, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Mount Soledad Memorial, "presently configured and as a whole, primarily conveys a message of government endorsement of religion that violates the Establishment Clause."

The Mount Soledad Memorial Association says it is prepared to challenge the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the Supreme Court. The Court previously saved the monument in 2006, blocking a removal order to give the lower courts time to consider arguments in the matter, reports the Asocciated Press.

If the Supreme Court's October orders are any indication, the Mount Soledad Cross appeal may not make before The Nine. Earlier this month, the Court denied cert in a Sixth Circuit Ten Commandments appeal. Judge James Deweese, the plaintiff who fought to keep the Ten Commandments in his courtroom, maintained that the display was about honoring legal traditions rather than endorsing religion.

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