Thomas More Law Center fights for Mt. Soledad cross

Continuing its battle started in 2004 to save the Mt. Soledad Cross, the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor last week filed a Friend of the Court brief in support of the government's effort to overturn a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that ordered the removal of a cross at the Mount Soledad Veteran's Memorial in San Diego, California.

The Law Center's brief was filed on behalf of Rear Admiral Jeremiah Denton (USN Retired), Chairman of the Law Center's Citizens Advisory Board, and Sybil and Robert Martino, parents of then Captain Michael D. Martino, USMC, and Julie Bloomfield, the wife of Major Gerald Bloomfield II, USMC.

Both Captain Martino and Major Bloomfield were killed in action on November 2, 2005 during operations in Iraq. All three service members have plaques commemorating their service at the foot of the 29-foot concrete cross erected in 1954 by the Mount Soledad Memorial Association.

The cross was first challenged in court in 1989. To avoid the legal challenges, Congress ultimately designated the cross as a memorial to all veterans of all wars, including the War on Terrorism.

Because the memorial was taken over by the federal government, ACLU attorneys filed a new lawsuit to remove the cross, this time against the federal government with new plaintiffs. The federal District Court held that there was no establishment clause violation because Congress acted in a clear cut secular purpose to preserve the site as a Memorial and the primary effect of the Memorial is patriotic and nationalistic.

However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court's decision, holding that the memorial as configured primarily conveys a message of government endorsement of religion.

In 2004, both the city of San Diego and the Memorial Association agreed to remove the cross.

However, just weeks before that agreement was executed, the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor stepped in on behalf of a former Korean War Navy pilot.

The Law Center was able to get Congress to declare the Mt. Soledad cross a national veteran's memorial. Nevertheless, a federal judge ordered San Diego to remove the cross within 90 days or pay $5,000 per day.

This time, the Law Center went to the U.S. Supreme Court and obtained an emergency stay of that order, saving the cross in both the state and federal appellate courts.

Published: Mon, Mar 19, 2012