(Photo: REUTERS/Mike Blake)
Following a court hearing Thursday, a religious liberty law group is confident that an association that includes U.S. war veterans wanting to make sure a 29-ft cross and memorial remains at a site in San Diego will continue to have a voice in court.
"We are encouraged by today's Mt. Soledad Memorial Cross hearing," said Jeff Mateer, general counsel for Liberty Institute. "We look forward to continuing to defend and work alongside the other parties to this case to achieve a resolution that will preserve the memorial cross and continue to honor the selfless sacrifice and service of our nation's veterans."
U.S. District Court Judge Larry Alan Burns heard arguments about the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association's (MSMA) status during a mandatory hearing held only miles away from the cross.
Liberty Institute said they are representing the MSMA to ensure the voice of the veterans group – which originally erected the memorial in 1954 to honor veterans of the Korean War – will be heard in any future proceedings. The court requested that the MSMA file a motion to confirm its status as a party or seek intervention within the next 30 days. The next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 19.
In mid-July, the MSMA's interests in the landmark case, Mt. Soledad Memorial Association v. Steve Trunk, et al and United States of America, et al. v. Steve Trunk et al, were called into question after the DOJ and ACLU announced in court filings that they were in settlement discussions without the MSMA's participation.
Congressmen Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) filed an objection letter to Attorney General Holder expressing frustration and serious concerns about the future of the memorial. Congressmen Hunter and Bilbray also warned Attorney General Holder that if the DOJ did not include the MSMA in all future negotiations with the ACLU, then it would be their "recommendation that independent counsel be appointed to ensure the Memorial is rightly defended in accordance with Public Law 109-272."
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily refused to review the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross case, which has been ongoing for 20 years. However, Justice Alito wrote an encouraging statement that the appeal may be premature and the court may reconsider this case after the district court issues a final order determining the fate of the memorial.
In April, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 290, the War Memorial Protection Act, legislation introduced by Rep. Hunter and supported by Rep. Bilbray. The War Memorial Protection Act, which allows for the inclusion of religious symbols on war memorials, was in response to the ruling by the Ninth Circuit, declaring San Diego's Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial unconstitutional. Before passage, the bill requires Senate approval and the president's signature.
For more than a half century, the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross has stood as a symbol of the selfless sacrifice and service of our nation's veterans, Liberty Institute states. The memorial cross is surrounded by six concentric walls with the photos, names and diverse religious symbols of members of the U.S. military who have honorably served their country.
The memorial cross is just one of many veterans memorials across the country under assault by the ACLU, atheist groups and their supporters, states Liberty Institute. In 2009, Liberty Institute successfully represented the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) of the United States, The American Legion, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, VFW Department of California, American Ex-Prisoners of War, VFW Post 385, and retired Lt. Col. Allen R. Miliefsky, United States Air Force as amici at the Supreme Court to help save the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross, a World War I memorial in the Mojave National Preserve in California.
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America – "in our schools, for our churches and throughout the public arena. Liberty's vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation's Founders." For more information, go online here: www.LibertyInstitute.org.