Contact: Brian Magee, 202-238-9088
(Washington, DC, October 17, 2011) — The American Humanist Association is pleased with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision today not to re-hear the Mt. Soledad cross case where, as part of a war memorial, a 43-foot cross has been ruled unconstitutional. That January ruling reversed a 2008 U.S. District Court decision.
“The use of a Christian symbol as part of a war memorial that is supposed to honor all of our country’s veterans only serves to separate and alienate thousands of non-Christian soldiers.” said Bill Burgess, attorney and legal coordinator of the American Humanist Association’s legal arm, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
The case involves the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego. Phillip K. Paulson, a longtime American Humanist Association member, filed the original suit in 1989 (Paulson et al. v. City of San Diego et al). Paulson died in 2006, and the American Humanist Association worked with other organizations in the years to follow and wrote an amicus brief in 2006 arguing that the cross is an unconstitutional breach of the Establishment Clause and represents a clear preference for Christians.
In January, reading from the court’s opinion, Judge M. Margaret McKeown said “…the Memorial, presently configured and as a whole, primarily conveys a message of government endorsement of religion that violates the Establishment Clause…”
“The Ninth Circuit underscores the validity of the court’s original ruling that it is an unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity for the government to erect or maintain a giant cross on public land,” continued Burgess. “The cross on Mt. Soledad has a decades-long history of expressly religious use, and it cannot be said to represent all of our fallen soldiers.”
The Liberty Institute, representing the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association, has promised an appeal to the Supreme Court.
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 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.