Judge orders removal of Mt. Soledad Cross

.- After a 17-year legal battle, Federal District Judge Gordon Thompson ordered San Diego officials to remove the historic Mount Soledad Cross within 90 days or face fines of $5,000 per day thereafter.

The 43-foot cross was erected in 1954 and is currently the centerpiece of a national memorial honoring American veterans of all wars.

A similar order was issued in 1991 in this case between the city of San Diego and atheist activist Philip Paulson.

But lawyers from the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, have said the issue is not over.

“The judge’s order is not the end of the Mt. Soledad saga. We are looking at several options: asking President Bush to take the land under the federal government’s powers of eminent domain,” said Charles LiMandri, the west coast regional director of the Law Center, which has been involved in the defense of the Mt. Soledad Cross and National Memorial for several years.

In 2004, just weeks before the cross was to be removed, the Law Center devised the legal blueprint to designate the land a national veteran’s memorial, which the area’s congressmen implemented in a federal omnibus appropriations act Dec. 8, 2004.

Just days before Judge Thompson’s order to remove the Cross, LiMandri hand-delivered a supplemental legal memo on behalf of San Diegans for the Mt Soledad National Memorial, pointing out how recent federal court decisions supported keeping the Cross where it is.

“I understand that after 17 years, Judge Thompson would want to get this case off his docket,” said Richard Thompson, the Law Center’s president and chief counsel.

“But what is troubling, to do so he not only ignored the change in the law and facts since his 1991 order, but he ignored the will of Congress and the United States President that made the Mt Soledad Cross a part of a national memorial, and he ignored the will of San Diego citizens of all faiths who overwhelmingly voted to maintain the Cross as the centerpiece of this memorial.”

For more on the Mt Soledad Cross controversy, go to www.thomasmore.org.

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