Mount Soledad Case Declined for 2nd Time
WASHINGTON (CN) - The Supreme Court on Monday again declined to enter the fray over a giant cross on San Diego's Mount Soledad, which has been ruled unconstitutional and Christian-centric.
First erected in the La Jolla section of San Diego in 1913, the 43-foot cross has been an object of controversy, lawsuits and local initiatives for decades. In 2006, some 20 years after the federal government took possession of the land and made the structure a war memorial, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States, individual veterans and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns in San Diego granted the government summary judgment in 2008, but a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit reversed in January 2011, finding that the mountaintop war memorial implies a preference for Christian soldiers in violation of the U.S. Constitution's establishment clause.
The Pasadena panel did not specifically order removal of the cross, but it did find that its history - and La Jolla's documented history of anti-Semitism - belied Congress' assertion that the memorial, with the cross at its center, was primarily secular.
The memorial association and the federal government first sought Supreme Court intervention at that time, but the justices deemed such relief premature in 2012 since final judgment still had not been entered.
Judge Burns ordered removal of the cross order the next year but his ruling has been stayed pending appeal.
Noting that the 9th Circuit has not yet reviewed that order, the Supreme Court on Monday again declined a petition by the memorial association.
Justice Samuel Alito explained in a brief opinion that the court denied certiorari because the memorial association "has not met the very demanding standard we require."
"In light of the stay, any review by this court can await the decision of the Court of Appeals," Alito added.
Alito also reiterated his position that the "court's establishment clause jurisprudence is undoubtedly in need of clarity." Justice Clarence Thomas had expressed similar thoughts when the court declined in 2011 to intervene in a case where a highway memorial in Utah was found unconstitutional.