A federal appeals court, Monday, disappointed advocates of the 29-foot Mount Soledad cross in San Diego, Calif., by declining to review or reverse an earlier Ninth Circuit panel decision calling for the removal of the monument, according to the Associated Press.
The cross was dedicated in 1954 in honor of Korean War veterans and stands on public property, towering a top a mountain, as it faces the Pacific Ocean. The American Civil Liberties Union has been fighting to get the cross removed, saying it is a religious symbol.
City officials have argued that the cross is part of a secular war memorial, and its current position is favored overwhelmingly by San Diego residents, who in 2005 approved a measure to preserve it by donating it to the federal government, although subsequent court hearings have determined the measure did not protect it from the constitutional dispute.
The Mount Soledad Memorial Association had waged a battle to save the monument, filing a motion in the Ninth Circuit Court last April asking the full court to rehear the case following the earlier panel ruling in January which declared the war memorial unconstitutional.
The group was nevertheless encouraged by the fact that five of the appeals court judges dissented in the ruling.
"Although we are disappointed that the Ninth Circuit denied requests to have the full court rehear this case, we are encouraged that five of the judges agree with us and believe the cross should stay," said Kelly Shackelford, president of the nonprofit Liberty Institute and attorney for the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, which oversees the monument.
They have promised to appeal Monday’s decision to the Supreme Court.
The legal wrangling over the Mount Soledad cross began in 1989 when atheist Philip Paulson sued the city of San Diego. Paulson, a Vietnam War veteran, felt that the cross excludes veterans who are not of the Christian faith. A Jewish war veterans group is also listed as plaintiff in the case along with the ACLU.