Jim Underdown on the Mt. Soledad Cross

A court last week ordered that the giant cross at Mt. Soledad be removed, the latest in a legal fight that has lasted more than two decades and will likely go on for several more years. It isn’t actually going to be removed, of course, because there are yet more appeals. Jim Underdown, executive director of CFI-Los Angeles, wrote a brief letter to the LA Times answering some of the arguments made by those who defend the cross:

Of course the giant cross looming over San Diego is an inappropriate endorsement of Christianity. The legal mental gymnastics that folks there have been using for years to deny this can be exposed with one simple test:

Replace the cross with a giant star of David, statue of Buddha or star and crescent, and see how Christians feel living under someone else’s religious symbol.

Christians shouldn’t worry. Should they lose their appeal on the court order to remove the cross from public property, I’m sure they can find some tax-exempt church property on which to erect it.

Exactly right. This is always the test of the arguments offered by the Christian right in favor of Christian privilege. Whatever activity or display they are defending, simply ask if they would take the same position if the symbol or speech being expressed were Muslim. The answer is almost invariably no. Just imagine what they would say if a giant star and crescent were erected on public land somewhere. All those arguments about “religious freedom” would vanish into thin air and be replaced by cries of “TERRORIST! SHARIA LAW!” But from the perspective of the First Amendment, there is no distinction between the two. The government does not get to decide which religion is true or that access to public property is limited only to one religion.

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  • raven

    They removed a cross from a butte over Eugene, Oregon a few years ago. After a long and bitter fight.

    The world didn’t end. Most people didn’t much care one way or the other.

    It’s in a churchyard somewhere in the city.

  • raven


    On June 14, 1997 and as a result of the 9th Federal Circuit’s ruling, the cross was subsequently removed and reinstalled at Eugene Bible College near Churchill High School and a flagpole flying an American flag was erected in its place. U.S. Representative from Oregon Charles O. Porter was one of the people who had advocated for the removal of the cross.[9]

    This case has remarkable similarities to the Mount Soledad Cross controversy in San Diego California. (See: http:/ /en.wikipedia .org/wiki/Mount_Soledad_cross_controversy ) Both of these cross histories started with a latin cross being erected on public property and then being transferred to private ownership in attempt to circumvent the constitutional provisions. In both cases the courts saw through these transparent circumventions and ruled the crosses unconstitutional.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Should they lose their appeal on the court order to remove the cross from public property, I’m sure they can find some tax-exempt church property on which to erect it.

    So they’d be moving the cross from one publicly-funded property to another? I guess I shouldn’t go there…

  • jefferylanam

    San Francisco took the opposite response for the Mt. Davidson Cross. They sold the land around the cross, which is in a city park, to a private organization.

  • D. C. Sessions

    The government does not get to decide which religion is true or that access to public property is limited only to one religion.

    Nobody ever said that the Constitution is perfect.

    Oh, wait …

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/LDORIGINALS Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Raven #2

    That eyesore’s still there outside the Bible College, too. The covered it with neon lights so everyone can see it for miles, until the hills get in the way. I go past it everytime I go see my folks.

  • MikeMa

    Someone with reasonable photoshop skills at The Onion should replace the cross with a crescent and publish that to get the reaction. Most wingnuts do not recognize The Onion’s output as anything other than real news.

  • Reginald Selkirk
  • Pieter B, FCD

    I left a comment in response to another letter under Jim’s.

    Michael Murphy wrote: “I am at a loss to understand the emotions of those who somehow feel threatened by a simple acknowledgment of our fallen veterans of all faiths and beliefs.”

    A cross does not represent “all faiths and beliefs,” though. It represents Christianity alone, and at that not even all Christians. There are Russian and Serbian Orthodox crosses, Presbyterian and at least three different Lutheran versions; all told, easily a dozen different Christian crosses.

    If you were to visit the VA hospital [ref. another part of Murphy’s letter] and see on the hill a Star of David, a Wiccan pentacle or the Hindu Aum all by itself, you would probably feel diminished and excluded. Then you might understand the emotions of those who are told that a cross is nothing more than “a simple acknowledgment of our fallen veterans of all faiths and beliefs.”

  • Nathair

    Christian group plans 100-foot-tall Jesus statue

    Isn’t there something about carved images of gods in their “The 10 Commandments”? IIRC it’s something like “Don’t make any of ’em!” What gives?

  • Nathair

    Meh, html-fu failure. Should have read: “The <sic> 10 <sic> Commandments”

  • caseloweraz

    The advocate for that 100-foot statue of Jesus (taller than Brazil’s Cristo Redentor) is quoted as follows:

    “I don’t believe in statues, but it is a symbol of love and peace,” Shlayan told The Jerusalem Post. “People who are against it, it comes from jealousy.”

    Of course it is. And if the eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism were placed with it , each of equal height, we’d have nine times as much love and peace on that hilltop, wouldn’t we?

    But somehow I don’t think Shlayan would endorse that proposal.

  • caseloweraz


    Thanks for the update on the Mt. Davidson cross. While reading this thread, I wondered about that. I lived in the Outer Sunset for a few months, and I would see that cross almost daily.

  • caseloweraz

    Nathair: Meh, html-fu failure. Should have read: “The 10 Commandments”.

    Stop me if you already know this. That has to be written as

    Should have read: “The *lt;sic*gt; 10 *lt;sic*gt; Commandments”.

    with “*” replaced by the ampersand.

  • caseloweraz

    Ah, my bad — obviously you do already know that. I’m off to get another cuppa, so I wake up.

  • suedoenimm3

    Things are not looking good on this now. The DoD is doing an end-run again by selling it to a private organization.


    And the ACLU lawyer is not sounding very committed.

    ACLU attorney David Loy, while reserving judgment until the sale contract is scrutinized, said that, “Certainly we are glad the government is trying to get out of the business of religion.”

    Really? The act of selling it to a private organization was a promotion of religion. Are we going to drop the ball on the one yard line? I’ll be sending an email to Mr. Loy. I hope others will encourage him to persevere too.