The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Will Matthews, ACLU national, (212) 549-2582 or 2666;
Rebecca Rauber, ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, (619) 398-4497;

ACLU To Argue TODAY That Government's Display Of Mt. Soledad Cross Is Unconstitutional

Cross Signifies Federal Endorsement Of Particular Religious Beliefs


American Civil Liberties Union, representing the Jewish War Veterans of
the United States of America and several local residents, will argue
today before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that the
continued display of the Mt. Soledad Latin cross on federally owned
land in San Diego is an unconstitutional endorsement by the government
of favored religious viewpoints.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled in
July 2008 that the cross is constitutional after the federal government
obtained the land on which the cross sits through a special act of
Congress. Wednesday's arguments before a three-judge panel of the Ninth
Circuit will address the ACLU's appeal of that decision.

According to the ACLU, the federal
government's recent acquisition of the land was nothing more than a
transparent effort to evade a long series of unfavorable court
decisions invalidating the city of San Diego's display of the 43-foot
tall cross. Courts have routinely recognized that governmental displays
of distinctly sectarian symbols send an impermissible message of
exclusion and religious favoritism.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging
the government's display of the cross in 2006 on behalf of three local
individuals and the Washington, D.C.-based Jewish War Veterans, the
oldest active national veterans service organization in the country.

ACLU arguments that a Latin cross on federal land atop Mt. Soledad in San Diego, California is unconstitutional

Matthew Jones, from the private law
firm WilmerHale, will argue before a three-judge panel of the Ninth
Circuit Court of Appeals. Daniel Mach, Director of Litigation for the
ACLU Program on Freedom of Belief, and David Blair-Loy, Legal Director
for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, will be on hand to
answer questions from members of the media.

Today, December 9, 2009 at 8:30 a.m. PST

Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals building
Courtroom 2
125 South Grand Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91105

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666