Seventeen members of Congress were listed in an amicus brief on Wednesday in support of a memorial cross in San Diego that was declared to violate the U.S. Constitution.
The amicus brief, a legal opinion from a party not directly involved in the case, was filed by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) and asked the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to rehear a case in which a three-judge panel had declared Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial erected in 1954 to be unconstitutional.
“This is an opportunity for the entire appeals court to correct a mistake made by a three-judge panel that wrongly determined that a long-standing monument honoring our nation's veterans is unconstitutional," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ. "There's Supreme Court precedent underscoring the fact that this monument does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”
He added, “The Memorial evokes thoughts of the hundreds of thousands of individual crosses throughout the country and worldwide representing the lives and service of American veterans. It poses no constitutional crisis.”
In early January, a three-judge panel decided 3-0 in the case of Trunk v. City of San Diego that the Mt. Soledad war memorial violated the constitution. The memorial was originally dedicated to Korean War veterans, but later also honored U.S. veterans of World War I and World War II.
Among the U.S. representatives listed in the amicus brief are: Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), chairman of the congressional prayer caucus, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), and Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.).
Supporters of the Mt. Soledad memorial cite the Salazar v. Buono case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the giant cross that served as a war memorial in the Mojave Desert was not just a Christian symbol but was used to honor those who sacrificed to protect this nation.
For years, the Mt. Soledad cross has been at the center of court battles over its constitutionality.
In May 2006, a judge ruled in favor of removing the cross and imposed a $5,000 fine for each day the monument stood after the 90-day deadline. The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the ruling, allowing Congress time to transfer the cross to federal ownership under a law signed by then-U.S. president George W. Bush in August 2008.
Two years later, in January of this year, the three-judge panel ruled in favor of removing the Mt. Soledad cross.
“We're hopeful the full appeals court takes the case and reverses the panel's decision - a vital next step on the way to the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Sekulow.