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American Humanist Association Sues City of Lake Elsinore to Stop Cross Monument

AHA says city violated separation of church and state

For Immediate Release

Contact: William Burgess, bburgess@americanhumanist.org, 202-238-9088 x 102

(Washington, DC, May 31, 2013) — The American Humanist Association (AHA) filed suit in federal court today against the city of Lake Elsinore, California, to stop it from funding the construction and display on public property of a monument depicting a soldier kneeling in prayer before a Christian cross. The city approved the design and funding of the cross monument in November of last year but has yet to complete its installation at the city-owned baseball stadium. The AHA’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter at that time to the city council explaining that cross monument would violate the separation of church and state required by the Constitution, but no reply was received. The city approved the design and allocated approximately $50,000 of city funds for construction and installation.

“The city has clearly violated the First Amendment by unnecessarily choosing a divisively religious means of honoring our veterans,” said William Burgess, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “In addition, the California constitution prohibits any governmental funding whatsoever for religious purposes, including religious monuments.”

The suit contains details about the times several city officials and supporters of the proposed monument publicly declared the Christian symbolism it includes was at least part of the reason they supported its construction. Despite the clearly sectarian motivation for spending public money—and a warning from the town’s attorney that the monument as approved is likely unconstitutional—the city council unanimously voted to approve the monument anyway, saying that they were “taking a stand” for Christianity and against the separation of church and state.

The lawsuit, American Humanist Association et al. v. City of Lake Elsinore, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. A copy of the complaint is available here.

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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington D.C., its work is extended through more than 160 local chapters and affiliates across the United States. Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation and The Herb Block Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms a responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.

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