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9th Circuit Says Mt Soledad Cross Unconstitutional -- Outraged Citizens to Rally This Saturday -- Concerned with National Implications of Ruling

Contact: Mary Moran, 619-972-2221

SAN DIEGO, Jan. 11, 2011, /Christian Newswire/ -- Outraged by the January 4 ruling of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals deeming the Cross within the Mt Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego unconstitutional because it conveys the message of "state-endorsed religion," hundreds of citizens along with local and national leaders will rally in defense and support of the Veterans Memorial on Saturday Jan 15 10am atop Mt Soledad, San Diego.

"The Mt Soledad Memorial, including its centerpiece Cross, has honored our military for decades until an 'enlightened' judge had an epiphany which ignores such foundational truths as the fact that our nation's Capital Building was even used -- at one time -- as a church, attended by no less than President Thomas Jefferson himself, one who might know something about the alleged "separation of church and state." Said Dr. Jim Garlow, Senior Pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, and Chairman of Renewing American Leadership located in Washington DC, "These revisionist judges consistently confuse the historic recognition of the role that the Christian faith -- embraced by 90% of our citizens -- and Christian symbols have played and continue to play in our national life with the 'establishment' of religion. Not one truly informed person driving by the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial has ever assumed that they are required to embrace Christianity as an 'established,' government sponsored religion."

The 43-foot cross, located in a San Diego public park was dedicated in 1954 to honor veterans of the Korean War. It has been the subject of repeated legal challenges for more than 20 years.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' unanimous ruling on Tuesday January 4 said the decision was in no way "meant to undermine the importance of honoring our veterans." "Indeed, there are countless ways that we can and should honor them, but without the imprimatur of state-endorsed religion," the ruling said.

Charles LiMandri, lead San Diego attorney who has fought pro bono to defend the Memorial for the last six and a half years, said "In reaching their radical decision, the activist judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ignored the fact that the Mt.Soledad Cross is now part of a multi-faceted, fully-integrated, world class war memorial, a constitutional tribute to those who have served our nation in uniform, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice for our precious freedoms. Therefore, despite its appropriate religious significance to many people, it is properly being used for a legitimate secular purpose, that is to honor all of our nation's veterans."

The legal battle over the cross began in 1989 when Vietnam veteran Philip Paulson, an atheist, sued the city of San Diego. He argued that the cross excludes veterans who aren't Christian. A Jewish veterans' group has also been a plaintiff in the case, and is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Federal courts have ordered the cross removed. In 2005, San Diego residents overwhelmingly approved a measure to preserve the cross by donating the land on which it sits to the federal government.

While the land transfer eventually took place, the Ninth Circuit ruled that this did not protect the cross from the constitutional dispute.

The court's ruling rejected the notion that the cross serves a legitimate secular purpose as a war memorial. It said that for most of its history the cross served as a site for annual Easter services. A plaque designating it as a war memorial was not added until the legal controversy began in the late 1980s.

Dr Garlow further stated, "In contrast, the courts are attempting to deny both the historic role that Christianity has played in American laws and political life, while attempting to curtail any public religious historic expression."

Attorney LiMandri stated that "this case stands to have significance for the entire nation as it eventually heads to the U.S. Supreme Court. This area of the law needs to be clarified by the Supreme Court to prevent more liberal judges from striking down religious symbols on public property which serve a legitimate secular purpose and in no way establish a national religion."

January 15 rally speakers include National Radio Talk Show Host Roger Hedgecock, Congressman Duncan D Hunter Jr., Retired Congressman Duncan L. Hunter, Ca State Senator Joel Anderson, Dr Jim Garlow, Chairman of Renewing American Leadership (ReAL), Chuck LiMandri, Attorney defending the Mt Soledad Memorial, San Diego Talk Show Host Mark Larson and other leaders.