Judge Rules ‘Religious’ Veterans Monument Unconstitutional Endorsement of Christianity

monumentLOS ANGELES — A federal judge in California has ruled that a veterans monument that includes the symbol of the cross is an unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity.

As previously reported, the city council of Lake Elsinore unanimously approved the creation of the monument in November 2012, which was to be erected in Diamond Stadium. The 5-0 vote followed a public hearing where over 100 residents attended to voice their opinion, mainly in support of the display.

However, the 6-foot granite monument was met with disapproval by atheist groups and others who asserted that one aspect of its design went too far. The monument, which declares, “In honor of our brave men and women who by their service give life to our most precious gift — freedom,” also depicts a soldier kneeling before a row of cemetery markers in the shape of a cross. A star of David is also featured on the display, as well as an American flag and a soaring eagle.

In a lawsuit filed by the American Humanist Association (AHA) on behalf of residents Diana Hansen and John Larsen, the organization contended that the crosses on the monument clearly were representative of Christianity and therefore were inappropriate for a public memorial.

“[We are challenging] the constitutionality of the City’s design, approval, funding, construction, ownership, maintenance and prominent display of a monument … depicting a soldier kneeling before a Christian cross as a violation of the separation of church and state,” the complaint outlined.

Last July, U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson agreed with the atheist association and issued a temporary injunction against its installment. On Tuesday, Wilson issued his final ruling in the matter, finding the monument to be unconstitutional.

“The court concludes that Lake Elsinore’s veterans’ memorial was designed without a predominantly secular purpose, and that its principal effect is to advance religion,” he wrote. “[T]he court concludes that the memorial violates both the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause and California’s Establishment and No Preference Clauses.”

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AHA applauded the ruling, stating that it believed the monument needed to be more inclusive of all Americans.

“I’m pleased Judge Wilson decided to uphold the valuable principles contained within the First Amendment,” commented Appignani Humanist Legal Center Director David Niose in a written statement. “I hope that if members of the city council still want to honor veterans, they will move forward with a monument design that represents everyone who fought for our freedoms.”

But the city said that it would review the ruling as it disagreed with the outcome of the case.

“We are disappointed with the court’s decision. We plan to take a close look at the ruling,” it stated. “Our goal has always been to recognize the men and women who have bravely served to protect our country and our freedoms. We remain committed to this goal.”

The city has not yet stated whether it plans to appeal, although it may do so within 30 days.

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  • dude

    I would like you to know this country was founded on Christianity. The laws for example, if you go to court you must swear on the bible to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God. The judges layers seek the truth not as in any secular court or in any other religion in the world. Many have given their lives for the freedom we hold true in this country.We believe we may not agree with what you say but were willing to give our lives so that you may say it. These people gave this lives for our freedom. Many who claim the cross or the beliefs that were stated by those who died for us are unconstitutional. I challenge them to willingly give their lives leaving their children wives mothers fathers neighbors for your freedom for someone with selfish attitudes to say what these people did for our country what they had to say was unconstitutional?

    • C. Braden

      No, this country was founded on enlightenment values. We have a secular constitution, where neither God nor religion are mentioned once. If you go to court, you do not HAVE to swear on the Bible. That would be religious discrimination, and would be a direct violation of the “no religious tests” clause of the constitution. Yes, many have given their lives for this nation and the freedoms we enjoy, and many of them were not Christian. I have served this nation in the armed forces for fourteen years, and am not a Christian. When I swear my oath of enlistment, I am allowed to “affirm” instead of sear, and to omit the “so help me God.” I have left my family behind to fight our wars, so I feel calling me selfish is both incorrect and ignorant. Any veterans memorial should honor ALL of our veterans, not just the Christian ones.

  • C.P. Steinmetz

    The U.S. was not “founded on Christianity.” Neither the U.S. Constitution nor Declaration of Independence even mention Christianity or Christ. The Treaty of Tripoli of 1797 – passed unanamously by the Senate and signed by the President – states that ‘in no sense was was the country founded on the Christian religion’.

    And, you do not need to swear on the Bible to testify in court.

    Lastly, you seem to think that only Christians fought and sacrificed for this country.

    You might wish to rethink your statements.

    • Sid Perkin

      Regardless of any other issues, what is the internationally recognised symbol of marking a grave? Oh yes, a CROSS! What grave markers are used in almost every cemetary in the western world to denote service personnel killed in action? Yep, a CROSS! What symbols should be put onto this monument to be universally recognised as representing the graves that the serviceman is kneeling respectfully in front of?

      Remember, you can only use a CROSS anywhere in the world EXCEPT in America!

      • C.P. Steinmetz

        Your arguments are specious. You choose to ignore the intent of the crosses.

        “[Judge] Wilson, however, found the argument unpersuasive in the face of statements by city leaders and a representative of the local historical society — all of whom avowed their faith during public meetings.

        “There is no indication that any council member so much as suggested that the Latin crosses and Star of David were meant to allude to World War II veterans,” the judge wrote. “At least three council members made specific statements that they wanted to keep the Latin cross as part of the monument because of its religious symbolism.”

    • George Amntt

      I notice a Star of David amongst the crosses on the monument,is that unconstitutional also as an endorsement of Judaism, how about if there was a Muslim Crescent on it, would that be unconstitutional too?

      So what would the atheists allow as a symbol donating graves, if actual symbols on actual graves are not to be allowed?

    • John Watson

      The addition of Article 11 of The Treaty of Tripoli of 1797. Was a result of the translation of an Arabic document to English. But above that, the document was not written by the United States. It was the statement of the Islamic pirates of Tripoli. Find it interesting that the same attitude of such a terrible group is the same held…. By the now Democratic Party.

      • David Ivester

        Misinformed. First, Article 11 was not translated from the Arabic version of the treaty. Second, the Arabic version, in any event, hardly matters since our interest in the treaty is what it reveals of the founders’ understanding of the Constitution. President Adams (a founder) signed and the Senate (comprised largely of founders ratified the English version of the treaty. It was published in the newspapers of the time, along with a statement by Adams that, with the advice and consent of the Senate, he had considered and ratified the treaty and “every clause and article thereof.”

  • C.P. Steinmetz

    You might wish to examine the Wikipedia article before you go too far off the deep end of error.


    You “Find it interesting that the same attitude of such a terrible group is the same held…. By the now Democratic Party.” By the ‘Terrible group’ did you mean the Senate of the United States and President John Adams?