Americans United Criticizes House Meddling In California Religious Display Dispute

AU's Lynn Says Mt. Soledad Cross Bill Is Fueled by Approaching Elections

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today deplored House intervention in a California dispute over a Christian religious display on public property.

By a vote of 349 to 74, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5683, which transfers to the federal government ownership of a plot of land in San Diego featuring a towering Christian cross.

The cross has been the center of a legal imbroglio for 17 years. A federal judge has ruled that the Mt. Soledad cross, which is sometimes referred to as the “Mount Soledad Easter Cross,” violates the separation of church and state and ordered its removal. (Earlier this month, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy stayed the court’s ruling while the case is on appeal.)

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, blasted the House leadership for meddling in the legal controversy.

“The House has no business intervening in this way in an ongoing legal proceeding,” Lynn said. “But this is an election year, and the House leadership is proving itself all too eager to pass bills trashing the Constitution.

“Today’s action,” Lynn continued, “is an unwarranted, heavy-handed maneuver intended to please the Religious Right during the election season.”

Supporters of the Mt. Soledad cross argue that it is a memorial to military personnel killed in World Wars I and II and the Korean War and, therefore, it should remain on public property. But opponents note that a Christian symbol cannot honor all service personnel.

Said Lynn, “Americans of many different faiths and none fought in our wars. It is wrong to use the symbol of only one faith to memorialize those who died in service to their country.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.