San Diego Cross
Written by Barbra Carson
The San Diego CrossThe Mount Soledad cross is a 29-foot (9 m)-tall cross (43 feet tall, including the base) that was erected in 1954 on top of Mount Soledad in La Jolla, California.
A cross has been on the site since 1913. Architect Donald Campbell designed the present Latin cross in recessed concrete with a twelve-foot arm spread in 1954. In 1998, after the sale by the City of the cross and the land it stands on to the nonprofit Mount Soledad Memorial Association, the cross was transformed into being the centerpiece of a newly erected Korean War Memorial.
Beginning in 1989 and ongoing to the present, the Mt. Soledad Cross had been involved in a continuous litigation regarding its legal status. According to the interpretation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and No Preference Clause of the California Constitution by the opponents of the cross, it is illegal to display a religious symbol, such as a Christian cross, on public land, as it demonstrates preference to a specific religion and thus violates the separation of church and state. Judges have sided with plaintiffs on multiple occasions and ruled that the cross is illegal and had to be removed or sold to the highest bidder. Defenders of the cross explored several options for preserving the cross. The land under the cross was eventually transferred to the federal government. Critics of the cross allege that, even if the transfer itself is legal, it does not solve the fundamental problem of the argument that the cross is not legal on any government-owned property.
The American Civil Liberties Union proposed ways to resolve the situation:
The cross may be dismantled.
The cross may be sold to a third party and physically transferred off the public land. An Episcopal church, located within a few hundred feet from the present location of the cross, has agreed to place it on its property.
The government may hold an auction and sell the parcel of the land with the cross to the highest bidder. However, the government is not allowed to give any preference to those buyers who are interested in preserving the cross. An auction such as this was the subject of Proposition K in 2004, which failed 40% to 59%.
Defenders of the cross saw all these options as unacceptable and were determined to find a way to leave the cross intact in its present location.