WASHINGTON A Washington-based Christian legal advocacy center is joining the battle to keep the historic 29-foot cross atop Mount Soledad in San Diego, Calif.
The American Center for Law and Justice announced Monday that it will enter the legal battle to save the cross and that it has offered San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders free legal assistance in the case.
"We believe the City of San Diego has strong legal arguments to ensure that the cross on Mount Soledad remains in place," said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. "The Mount Soledad cross has been in place in one form or another for nearly 100 years. It's part of a war memorial honoring the men and women who died to defend our freedoms.
Last week, federal judge Gordon Thompson ordered the city to take down the concrete cross at Soledad National Park or face a five-thousand-dollar-a-day penalty.
The decision was the latest in a 17-year battle between the city of San Diego and the atheist Philip Paulson, who has petitioned to remove the cross on the constitutional basis of Church-state separation.
The cross was originally erected in 1954 as a memorial to veterans of the Korean War.
Judge Thompson ruled in favor of Paulson in a 1991 order that was never enforced. Last weeks decision reinforced his initial ruling, despite actions from Congress and pleas from San Diego voters to give the property under the cross to the federal government for use as a war memorial.
Mayor Jerry Sanders pledged to fight for the cross despite Thompsons order, and contended the fight is not about a Christian symbol but about a war memorial that is part of the citys history.