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Federal Judge Stops Lake Elsinore Religious War Memorial

Planned monument depicting a Christian cross violates the First Amendment

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Maggie Ardiente, mardiente@americanhumanist.org, 202-238-9088 x116
Monica Miller, mmiller@americanhumanist.org, 202-238-9088 x120

(Los Angeles, CA—Feb. 27, 2014)—A federal judge has ruled that a planned religious war memorial by the city of Lake Elsinore, CA at the city-owned baseball stadium can’t be built because it “violates both the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause and California’s Establishment and No Preference Clauses.” The planned monument depicts a soldier kneeling in prayer before a Christian cross.

The suit was filed by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center in May 2013. A preliminary injunction against the city was issued by US District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson in July 2013 and stopped activity until the final ruling was handed down. Among other things, the judge ruled that the planned monument lacks a secular purpose and has the unconstitutional effect of endorsing religion over non-religion.

“I’m pleased Judge Wilson decided to uphold the valuable principles contained within the First Amendment,” said Appignani Humanist Legal Center Director David Niose. “I hope that if members of the city council still want to honor veterans, they will move forward with a monument design that represents everyone who fought for our freedoms.”

The suit and an earlier letter sent to the city contain details about the times several city officials and supporters of the proposed monument publicly declared the Christian symbolism 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 city’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.

Officials from the City of Lake Elsinore have the option to appeal the ruling.

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Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other non-religious Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

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