.- The United States Congress has acted to save a 43-foot tall cross atop Mount Soledad in San Diego, whose removal had been the subject of an atheistâs 15 year long legal battle, by designating the land on which it stands and the granite memorial walls surrounding it, a national veterans memorial.
San Diego area Congressmen, Reps. Duncan Hunter, R âEl Cajon, and Randy âDukeâ Cunningham, R-Escondido, inserted the memorial designation as part of a spending bill awaiting approval by President Bush.
Phillip Paulson, the atheist whoâs legal battle was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told the San Diego Union-Tribune that âJihad Jesus Republicans need to understand that the separation of church and state has kept this country from getting into religious wars."
San Diego attorney Charles LiMandri, Director of the Thomas More Law Centerâs western regional office who has led the effort to save the Mt. Soledad cross said Congress was not unconstitutionally endorsing religion because it intended to honor veterans in the same manner as the crosses at Arlington National Cemetery.
âThose who want the Mt. Soledad cross removed erroneously base their case on the metaphor âseparation of church and state,â a phrase nowhere in the Constitution,â said Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center.
âThis cross and memorial, soon to be officially designated a national veterans memorial is constitutionally permissible,â he said. âItâs time to stop government by the ACLU and for the ACLU.â
President Bush is expected to sign the bill within the next few weeks.
According to the congressional designation, once the City of San Diego donates the land to the United States, the Secretary of the Interior shall administer the Memorial as a unit of the National Park System, giving the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association the right of continued maintenance of the cross and surrounding granite memorial walls and plaques.