California seeks removal of crosses from public land

They’re a landmark in southern California, and they could soon be gone, according to news reports:

The state intends to remove three crosses, which have stood for decades and possibly close to a century, from a vista point near Julian because of complaints lodged this summer about the religious symbols being on public property.

The crosses are three miles south of town, off state Route 79 on a rocky island surrounded by a circular drive. The area is just east of the highway at a spot that offers a stunning view of the desert mountains.

For years, Easter services have been held next to the crosses at what has long been known by locals as Inspiration Point.

The California Department of Transportation placed a “Notice of Encroachment” on the three crosses Aug. 3. Caltrans spokeswoman Cathryne Bruce-Johnson said plans were to remove the crosses on Friday, but those plans changed Tuesday. The crosses will now be removed at a later, unpublicized date, she said.

Crosses on public land have long been a source of controversy in the county. The legal battle over the cross on Mount Soledad has been going on for 20 years. In a ruling in January, a federal appeals court said the landmark on public land in La Jolla is an unconstitutional sign of government favoring religion.

The appeals court did not order the monument removed but returned the case to federal court in San Diego to determine if the cross will have to be moved or if there is a way that it can be modified to pass constitutional scrutiny as part of a war memorial.

Caltrans’ anticipated removal of the crosses in Julian has prompted some members of the community to plan a protest, which could include a caravan of vehicles circling the island to prevent a backhoe operator from digging the crosses out of the ground.

“It’s a local landmark, sort of an institution,” said 84-year-old Julian resident Fred Fabre. “It’s used on Easter mornings by a joint congregation of Christian churches here, and I know many people who go out there personally for meditation for the view and the crosses.”

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  1. So much for One nation UNDER GOD.

    Once again the big lie of separation of Church and State which was never part of our Constitution.

    Thomas Jefferson attended Church each Sunday while in Washington in services held inside the House of Representatives. His private letter has no bearing on what was in the Constitution. Keep telling the big lie until the lie becomes fact. Lets see, that was started by ????

  2. Deacon Greg Kandra says:


    Would you feel the same way if someone erected an image of a star-and-crescent on government-owned property? How about a Star of David?

    I don’t agree with what the state is doing here, because it really feels like over-reaching. But I can understand why people are bothered by the crosses being there.

    Dcn. G.

  3. vox borealis says:

    Deacon Greg,

    I assume that Muslims would be more upset than I if someone set up a statue of Muhammed, but I get your point. ; )

    More seriously, it would bother me very little the symbol of some other faith were erected in some far corner of the country on public land…the Star of David certainly does not offend me when I see it at the Arlington National Cemetery, so it would not bother me in such a case as this. In fact, it would bother me even less if the Star of David or Statue of Muhammed had been standing for decades or centuries.

    Perhaps you are a bigger man than I, but I can not understand one jot what some people would be bothered by. Or rather, I can understand it in the strictest sense of the word: I understand that they have a profound histility towards all things religious, probably especially Christian, and they are bullies. I can *understand* that.

    [Heh. Vox, I removed my reference to the statue of Mohammed right after I posted it and realized: that's dumb. It ain't gonna happen :-) . I wouldn't be bothered seeing other symbols, either, but some folks of other faiths get alarmed by stuff like this. Frankly, when I hear how some of our politicians talks these days -- often sounding more like preachers than pols -- I don't blame them. Dcn. G.]

  4. I guess California is going to have to change the name of many of their cities; San Francisco, Los Angeles (named after Our Lady of the Angels), San Diego, Sacramento (translated Sacrament), Santa Barbara, Carmel (for Mount Carmel). Also demolish all the old Catholic Missions like San Antonio de Padua, San Luis Obispo, San Juan Capistrano, and many others, full of crosses and saints and Virgins.

  5. Deacon Greg.

    Now in my 70′s I have seen a massive change in the law of the land in regard to faith. This started not with other religions wanting equal time, but with aethist like OHare who wanted religion removed from our lives and government. The Constitution says that the government is not supposed to do anything that infringes on the rights of religion to be freely excercised. That should include the courts if the judges honor their oath on the Constitution actual text. We had major displays of faith around most of the religious holidays going back generations all over the court house square and elsewhere. As to erecting sybols of other faiths, those faiths are not the tradition upon which this country which was founded, but it would not bother me if it was put up to honor a certain faith tradition which was part of our culture and our national identity. Younger people might think that this ongoing battle to rid God from the public square is normal and has always been going on in America. The exact opposite is true which is why I said we are hearing a big lie on the separation as it has been interpreted by a lousy ruling of the court. The actual text is clear, so as with Roe, the judges had to find other words not there to do their dirty work. In this case they used the Danbury letter from Jefferson. Anyone in their right mind would not try to use a personal letter as if it were part of the Constitution to change the actual text saying the exact opposite. My point that Jefferson attended church every sunday held in the house of representatives to me says more about his thoughts on the seperation than his political letter. He felt religion was and should be part of government. As to listening to Politicians on faith issues today, if you go back to our founders such as Washington and Adams for example, it is throughout their writing and speech. It was assumed that it was so integral to America that government without faith imbedded and integral with the people that the form of government they created could not long endure without it. We are seeing evidence of our decline as it is removed by this big lie.

  6. Or better yet, Rudy, take those missions that were stolen by the U.S. Govt from the Catholic Church and return them to their original owner.

  7. pagansister says:

    In the state I live in people have a habit of putting a cross in the place where someone was killed in a car accident. I suspect it is done by family or friends of the victims. It would take a long time for the state to remove all of them. I don’t really like seeing them–but generally they are there for many, many months if not years—depending on the winters here . (Northeast).

    Greta, I’m probably not too far from your age, however I do believe the founders here didn’t want religion and state mixed. Thomas Jefferson may have attended church etc. but he had his own ideas about God, Jesus etc. This country is a blend of many faiths—not all believe the same way—which is good. If a cross can be erected on public grounds—why not the Star of David, or a symbol for the Wiccan’s, or a symbol for Islam and others? Those faiths are celebrated in this country just like Christianity. You consider that this country was founded on Christianity( I disagree)—but there were other faiths in action too—eveyone that came over here was not Christian. I’m actually still wondering why “under God” was inserted in the Pledge to this country in the 1950′s—-when it was just fine without it before. If indeed it was that important, why wasn’t it part of the original Pledge?

  8. It’s an open and shut case. Displaying religious symbols on tax-supported property, especially those that are regularly used for worship services, shows clear favoritism by government toward religion. The fact that people got away with it for decades because of prevailing attitudes is no reason to allow it to continue. Keeping government out of religion in no way hampers any of us from following and expressing our beliefs to our heart’s content. No religion worth its salt needs state sponsorship to prop it up or legitimize it.

  9. I think the christianity can survive without the U.S. government, it has managed great for close to two thousand years , thank you.

  10. Some of the California missions are still active parishes, they are not owned by the government! My parent’s parish of San Miguel for one.

  11. naturgesetz says:

    What is forbidden is an “establishment” of religion. The word “establishment” clearly referred when the First Amendment was written to an “established church” such as the Church of England. IOW, the federal government was not to have a state church. To suppose that some generic expression of support for religion or even for Christianity to the extent of permitting the erection of crosses is equivalent to having a state church is, IMO, a serious misreading of both the letter and the intent of the First Amendment.

    What we are getting with these expansions of the First Amendment is the equivalent, in practice, of the anti-religious policies of Soviet Russia.

  12. naturgesetz, you are right. What the big lie says is that the state must set up the state religion as aethism. In doing this, they are going directly against the exact text of the first amendment. They are establishing NO GOD as the state religion. What they are supposed to do is not but in to say school districts who want prayer is schools as long as no student is forced to rise to say a particular prayer.

    We are so used to the federal government and courts getting involved that we think this is right and normal. Every regulation removes some more freedom and like the old story of the frog in the boiling water, we have slowly had all our freedom boiled out of us. very few today have lived in a truly free country where the federal government and its courts have done exactly what the text of the Constitution allows them to do. By giving them ever more power over the states and us individually, we have increased the anger of the people against each other on issues where the federal involvment has created the problem. When abortion laws were decided by states, all can still be American and have laws local to them according to their desires. Those who disagree can go to another state and still be in America. When the fed steps in via congress our courts, it forces their belief or desired outcome on all Americans with no recourse. This is exactly what the founders argued about and why they wrote words as simply as they did saying the federal government shall pass no laws infringing on the right of religion. At the time of our founding, if they saw the power the federal government has today, the constitution would not have passed the states and been ratified. You want less fighting between Americans and less rancor in Washington, get the federal government and courts limited to those powers given to them by the states. If they want new powers, the founders gave us the amendment process requiring massive majority to give them these new powers. We do not need Washington going out and telling a state to remove something they put in place and have no issue with keeping. If the state wants to have the star of david on the lawn of the courthouse, get it through the local government.

    How can anyone justify what the courts and fed have done to our rights through outright lies like the separation when the clear text says the exact opposite and who can justify the use of a private letter rather than the actual text unless you wanted to establish atheism as the state religion and were barred from doing so by the actual text?

  13. Allowing a replica of Calvary on public land IS a clear act of establishment of a state religion. It’s a wink-and-nod act of establishment versus an official state charter, but the end result is the same. Many of the proponents of crosses on public land quite openly state that they want to see Christianity established as the state religion, and claim that that was the founder’s intent all along.

    The state doesn’t have to adopt atheism as a state religion. It’s role is more like Switzerland or some other absolutely neutral power. To maintain its neutrality toward religion, it has to take one of two stances. The first, and cleanest, is to simply give no religion government money, land or special recognition of any kind. That’s what California is doing here, and its long overdue.

    The other legitimate way to maintain neutrality is to give ALL religions equal access. They could say “here’s 50 acres for all of you.” They could have a permit process and across the board limits on size, color, etc., so long as no one was singled out for favored treatment. I’m in support of this option to the extent it’s exercised fairly to all. I find that “culture warfare” Christians inevitably howl in protest whenever this option is offered or simply pack up their tent and take the fight elsewhere.

    A third option, of course, is to convert this land with the crosses into private property. There are procedures for selling public land to private groups.

    I don’t get how anyone’s freedoms are being taken away in this case. I have never been to this area of California, but I cannot imagine residents there suffer from a lack of access to crosses or churches. There are much nicer shrines and crosses than this on private land, and I don’t recall reading anywhere where Jesus said prayer only works if it has Caesar’s imprimatur and public funding.

  14. Deacon Norb says:

    Joan #6

    What are you talking about? All of Fr. Serra’s California Missions are still active parishes under the control of their own local Roman Catholic Dioceses. I know of one mission northwest of Gallup that was abandoned by the church and became a National Historical Monument but it was never “confiscated.”

  15. True, Deacon Norb, but in the fanciful narrative which construes all unfavorable judicial decisions as Soviet-style oppression, it sounds sexier to say the missions were “confiscated”!

  16. Kenneth, the real option is for the federal government and courts to stay out of this issue simply stating that the federal government has no role in these issues and is prevented from getting involved. Then it is up to the individual states to determine what they want to do or not do as far as religion is concerned. Right now, some state courts have to react because the federal courts have made some ruling.

    Again, the federal government is forcing aethism as the state religion be saying God or religious activity or symbols cannot be allowed, only the absence of God. Seems like they are doing exactly what the constitution said they should not be allowed to do.

  17. A state’s rights approach is a tempting solution, but it is problematic. The 14th Amendment (and subsequent court rulings) pretty much closed that road by “incorporating” aka making the Bill of Right apply to the to the states, not only federal jurisdictions. A good idea too, since the Bill of Rights would be relatively meaningless if it only counted in D.C. or national parks or the other handful of places where the feds have direct jurisdiction. If one lost the protections of U.S. law every time they crossed a state border, it would no longer be a “united states” but a collection of individual countries in close proximity.

  18. The 14th amendment was part of three amendments dealing with the issue of freed slaves. For decades after its passage, it was taken for exactly what it was intended. An example was when women tried to use the 14th amendment to vote. The tried to vote and were stopped and when protested, they were arrested and the case went through the courts which ruled their right to vote as “persons” and thus equal was denied. If they wanted to obtain the right to vote they would have to go through the amendment process which they did taking 50 plus more years. The rights we have as individuals and the rights of the federal government in rulings long after the civil war and the 14th amendment were only those given in writing. Later judges would begin to broadly “interpret” the constitution finding words and meaning not in the actual text to try to accomplish an outcome. Those rulings are as much in error as many view Dred Scott to be an earlier error by the courts even though the court was ruling correctly according to the law.

    And yes, you are right that the fed if we handled things like the founders attended and the states voted for, the fed would have a very small percentage of the power they have today. You seem to think that this is bad and that it is better for us to have unelected lifetime appointed judges decide what all the states have to do with everything in our lives and thus giving congress extraordinary power over us. If that had been in the constitution, we would have remained 13 divided states forever for none would have voted for what we have today. I frankly think it is good that Ohio might have one law for the people, and NY or California another. What is causing much of the anger and bitterness today is that the fed is involved in so much and that many of these things are in very important areas of our lives such as involving our faith beliefs and personal lives. If these were state matters, and the fed stayed out, we could all live in places where we find the beliefs we like and still remain Americans united in the key things we see as important on a national and international scale. If we had sodomy laws in place in one state and another allowed gay marriage, it would be by local choice, not one law forced on every state. If a concensus builds for changes, they would have to be put into being in such a way that they could get super majorities in congress and 3/4th of the states, not one judges opinion based on a big lie of something they discovered not there like the right of privacy.

    right now, there are state laws which apply to you only while in that state and it is not a major problem. How I drive, what seat belts I use, and the rules for starting a business or marriage are determined by the state. So should the issue of abortion and special rights for specific behavior choices.

  19. Without such broad interpretations of 14th Amendment intent, we would still have separate washrooms and drinking fountains and schools for black and white Americans. If courts had not bothered to “find” things not in the text and rule that most aspects of the Bill of Rights are enforceable upon states, there would be nothing to stop a state from outlawing all private firearm ownership.

    For that matter, if some state happened to amass a solid demographic of militant atheists or Muslims, there would be nothing to stop them from formally making Christians second-class citizens in their own states. They could pass zoning laws which deliberately single out churches for absurdly difficult regulations. They could allow open discrimination in hiring and banking practices and university admissions, you name it. This sort of game is par for the course in much of the Middle East and other places. Religious or ethnic minorities live (or not) at the pleasure of the ruling majority. Yes, in theory you could simply move to a state which suited you better, but that’s a real economic hardship, and you shouldn’t have to be a refugee in your own country.

    Federal courts and the Equal Protection Clause and body of case law relating to that are a shield against that. It’s a safety mechanism where someone can step in and say “we don’t care how popular this law is in local choice, there’s some things you simply can’t do to Americans.” Appointed judges have the freedom to take this big-picture approach precisely because they don’t have to suck up for votes or campaign cash. For all their supposed judicial activism in recent times, they still leave the vast majority of decisions to the legislative branch. They take very few cases, and far more often than not, draw their rulings narrowly around the issues in the case.

    I count the right to privacy as one of the greatest triumphs of the modern age. I know conservatives love to hate it because of Roe, but to me it defines the heart of why our country was founded. Even though it’s not written specifically as a right in the text of the Constitution, it’s very clear that the founders defined us as citizens, not subjects of our government. We do not live at the pleasure or by the leave of our rulers. They are not our parents or our owners and our bedrooms and living rooms are not company property in which they can micromanage our private lives or keep an eye on us for what they believe is in our own best interest.

  20. If only everyone would understand the law is the law. Do they think this entity wants all this bad news posted about them everywhere? Do they think any entity enjoys causing problems like this? Do they realize that the peoples taxes pay the state to abide by these laws? Do they feel this law is different from any other ‘law’ Do they know the true history for Mt Solidad and Mt Helix and why those crosses are allowed to remain there now? They aren’t only public property any more.
    I also read a flyer in Julian Sunday how the property is never maintained by the state. Well I am witness to seeing snow plows plowing the road that circles those crosses. Is that not maintenance by state funds?

    “Three controversial crosses that stood for decades on state property near Julian”
    I actually went by there Sunday with my sister and boyfriend. I saw the three crosses. The one appears to be made of railroad ties and could have been there for decades. However the other two… no way. The white metal one with a solar panel in the wreath and a light on top is standing next to a burnt stub of a post, probably the original post that got burned in the Cedar Fires. The other wooden post is almost brand spanking new wood and it is standing next to a broken wood stub in concrete. I wish people would go check this out and post the correct info instead of ‘misleading’ info. Stating they have been there for decades is WRONG.

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