Giant Cross Ordered Removed From Southern California Mountain

Judge says cross violates constitutional separation of church and state

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Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images

Visitors gather at the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego, Calif., in 2006.

A federal judge ordered the removal of a giant cross from the top of San Diego’s Mt. Soledad, ruling that it violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns issued the order on Thursday. It’s the latest chapter in a long legal battle over the 43-foot cross, which was erected in 1954 as a memorial to Korean War veterans.

In 1989, two Vietnam War veterans filed a lawsuit saying that the Christian symbol violates California’s “no preference” clause. In the years since, the city of San Diego has tried twice to sell the property, but was stopped by the courts.

Judge Burns’ ruling orders that the cross to be removed within 90 days, but it can remain in place if the case is appealed.

In 2011, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the cross violated the First Amendment. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.