The Supreme Court on Monday refused to get involved in a long-running dispute over a Korean War veteran's memorial cross in San Diego.
Supporters of the 43-foot monument
atop Mount Soledad — also known as the Easter Cross — wanted to skip an appeals court review and go straight to the Supreme Court, but the high court said the case first must go through the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Opponents have long argued the cross is a religious symbol on government land and violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
The appeals panel has been hostile to the cross questions in earlier rulings, including one issued last December ordering it to come down, NBC reported.
An attorney for the plaintiff in the case, Steve Trunk, hailed the decision.
"We agree with the Supreme Court that the case should go through the regular appellate process before any decision is made by the court whether or not it will hear the case," lawyer James McElroy told NBC News.
The land — bought in 1992 by the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association and then transferred to the Department of Defense in 2006 — now holds hundreds of plaques honoring veterans of all religions surrounding the base of the cross.
Legal analyst Dan Eaton told NBC News the legal process could last another two to three years.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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