The fight to keep a cross atop a Southern California war memorial that has been the subject of a decades-long legal battle now has the backing of the U.S. government.
San Diego's Mount Soledad cross memorializes Korean War veterans and was erected in 1954. But in 1989, two Vietnam War veterans claimed it violated a California law prohibiting the display of religious symbols on public land.
It's been a controversy ever since, with several courts ordering its removal. Each time, however, a stay was issued and the concrete cross, which is also called the Easter Cross, has remained.
On Thursday, a Justice Department petition filed with the Supreme Court pledged to prevent the cross from being taken down.
"The United States remains fully committed to preserving the Mount Soledad cross as an appropriate memorial to our nation's veterans," the petition says, according to CNN
A U.S. district court ruling in December that said the cross should be taken down was placed on hold pending an appeal. Thursday's petition, the government hopes, will begin the process of keeping the cross there indefinitely.
The cross and the land surrounding it were sold to a nonprofit, the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, in 1998. Over the next few years the cross became the centerpiece of a Korean War memorial. Rings of plaques form a circle around the cross, and the cross is enclosed by a fence.
Despite no longer being owned by the city of San Diego, the cross and the property around it continued to be subjected to lawsuits and court rulings. Congress has even tried to step in, but its efforts were shot down by appeals.
Opponents of the cross say it is a religious symbol, not a war memorial. The government wants it to stay. The case will next go to an appeals court, and potentially the Supreme Court after that.
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