A two-decade fight over the Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial in San Diego took a solemn turn when an appeals court ruled the towering tribute to American War Veterans is unconstitutional and favors the Christian religion.
The war memorial overlooks San Diego and contains six concentric walls that contain 3,200 black granite plaques, purchased by donors, etched with the names and photographs of war veterans.
Built in 1952 on public land, the cross at the war memorial has been ground-zero for a decades-long constitutionality battle in San Diego.
Once word of the court decision reached two San Diego Congressmen they promptly wrote letters to the Department of Justice Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates urging them to defend the San Diego landmark.
“For more than a half-century, the Mount Soledad Memorial has been a fixture of the San Diego community, honoring not only the service and sacrifice of the brave Americans whose stories are told by the monument’s plaques, but millions of others who served in defense of our nation,” said Congressman Duncan Hunter Jr. (R-CA).
“The Ninth Circuit’s decision is a disservice to these men and women and blatantly ignores the Memorial’s proud history as a symbol of military service. I’m confident the Memorial will remain intact as the judicial process proceeds, but it’s important the federal government does whatever it can to defend the Memorial and ensure it remains untouched,” Hunter said.
Echoing Rep. Hunter’s views was Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) who continues to fight for the rights’ of service members and a Memorial that honors servicemen from his family.
“The Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial holds a very special place in my heart because the plaques of my father, brothers, and stepfather are among the thousands of stories of military service. It is unfortunate that the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals continues to politicize this sacred Memorial and obstruct the memories and history the landmark proudly represents,” he explained. “I strongly urge Attorney General Holder and Secretary Gates to join Congressman Hunter and myself in continued defense of the memorial.”
For the time being, opponents of the Memorial have won. However the battle continues as the appeals court did not mandate the 43-foot cross to be immediately torn down.
The American Civil Liberties Union, a co-defendant, responded quickly and affirmed the court ruling saying it validated their legal principles.
“This is about fundamental principles and freedom of religion,” said David Blair-Loy, the legal director for the San Diego ACLU told the Union Tribune. “Our view has always been the best way to protect freedom of religion is to keep government out of religion.”
Members who have fought to keep the cross war memorial in place vow to take their fight to the U.S. Supreme Court if the lower court mandates the removal of the landmark.
The new lawsuit was filed by the Jewish War Veterans, the ACLU and individuals who question a cross being placed and maintained on federal land.
© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.
Congressman Hunter took the opportunity to talk to San Diegans about hot button issues like immigration and border security at two county townhall events over the weekend.
With Arizona passing the country’s toughest illegal immigration legislation to date, making it illegal to be illegal in the state and requiring residents to show acceptable identification to law enforcement for those who are loitering is places like Home Depot parking lots or known day labor sites. Candidates running for public office were chomping at the bit to share their point of view about the divisive issue.
California is a border state and counties in the southern portion are rife with problems. “Our borders are not secure. We have a good fence for a few miles here in San Diego because my father made sure the fence was built,” said Congressman Duncan Hunter Jr. (R-CA).
Hunter and Sheriff hopeful Jay LaSuer attended two townhall events, one at the Ramona Main Stage Theater and the other the Sweetwater Harley Freedom Rally 2010 in National City.
LaSuer spoke to voters about his tough stance on illegal immigration and the endorsement he received from America’s toughest Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Like Sheriff Joe, LaSuer says there are plenty of laws on the books and they are in need of being enforced.
“When you pick and choose the laws you enforce, you’ve lost your moral compass,” LaSuer said.
Voters who attended both events were able to put the candidates on the spot and ask tough questions.
Many questions were about securing the borders and stopping illegal immigration, while others were concerned with border security. Another topic of discussion was the new health care reform bill and how it may impact the middleclass citizens.
Hunter’s clear answer was to get Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) fired so responsible politicians can block funding to portions of the bill. Hunter said, “We need to make President Obama- former President Obama so we can repeal the bill.”
Hunter also wanted folks to know that he and other Republicans aren’t the party of no and they will continue to work hard to construct a health care bill and immigration bills that includes reform every American is demanding.