Mt. Soledad Cross

From Bwtm

Mt. Soledad Easter Cross
Mt. Soledad Easter Cross
The Mt. Soledad Easter Cross was dedicated to "Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" in a dedication bulletin by the grandmother of William J. Kellogg, President of the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association on Easter Sunday, 1954.

The Mt. Soledad Memorial Association claims that the site for the Veterans' Memorial on Mt. Soledad Natural Park was dedicated on Easter holiday to commemorate and memorialize those who died during the Korean War era. However, groups who oppose them claim that the cross shows preference for only Christian veterans, and discrimination against non-Christian veterans. The Mt. Soledad Easter Cross is not a sacred symbol for non-Christian veterans, and it has been argued that the presence of the Mt. Soledad Easter Cross demeans non-Christians with second-class citizenship status in their own country.

The minimum price to be included in the Mt. Soledad Easter Cross Korean War Memorial is $600, limited plaque locations. Prices subject to increase without notice, some restrictions may apply.



SOLEDAD CROSS CASE CONCLUDES, LEAVING MEMORIAL IN PLACE. Court orders end to legal odyssey over religious symbol.

The 29-foot cross overlooking San Diego and the Pacific was built 60 years ago, but people still can't agree on what it is supposed to mean. This spring, sorting it out may fall to the U.S. Supreme Court. To some, the striking centerpiece of the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial is a lasting tribute to those who died fighting for the country, which is how it was described by the local civic group that erected the cross. To others, it is a "gleaming white symbol of Christianity," which is how it was described by veterans at a dedication ceremony long ago. The sharply conflicting perspectives—a kind of constitutional Rorschach test—capture a debate that has erupted in federal courtrooms across America about whether crosses displayed in memorials on public land violate the First Amendment's ban on the establishment of religion. The Mount Soledad statue is one of at least four war-memorial crosses under legal fire by civil-liberty groups who want them off government land. The cross is a globally recognized symbol of Christian faith. But many veterans and others who have lost loved ones to battles or tragedy value the memorial crosses as monuments of remembrance, invested with historical weight. ?KEYWORDS=bladensburg&mg=reno64-wsj&

California Cross Display Is Unconstitutional, Says Federal Appeals Court.

An appraisal of the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial reveals its deficiencies and makes one wonder why it was conceived the way it was. The answer is that it was built to save the cross from legal decisions ordering its removal, and not to memorialize service personnel. If planting an orange grove or building a skate park around the cross was the best legal strategy for saving it, the defenders of the cross would have done that instead. What stands on the hilltop is a physical manifestation of a legal strategy and not a traditional memorial as its sponsors would like you to believe, although it makes good on one academic point: It is a monument to victory, a victory for the old guard of San Diego, whose desperate attempt to save their identity and maintain their political power through the presence of a cross on public land has resulted in a flawed memorial that cheapens the sacrifice made by those who actually died for our country. The decision of the 9th Circuit Court offers an opportunity to make it right.

As the Establishment Clause prohibits government from preferring one religion over another, or religion over nonreligion, there is no justifiable basis for permitting government to display a standalone Christian cross in the Preserve. This case is also very significant because Court's decision will likely affect outcomes in the Mt. Soledad cross case from San Diego and the Utah Highway Patrol Association crosses case, pending in the Ninth and Tenth Circuits, respectively.

Latest decision: Cross can stay

Landmark more memorial than religious symbol

The giant cross atop Mount Soledad can stay, a federal judge ruled yesterday. The La Jolla landmark has been the subject of nearly 20 years of litigation, public votes and legislative maneuvers as critics complain it's unconstitutional to have a religious symbol on public land.

But yesterday, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said the cross – visible for miles – has become a memorial to veterans, and its secular message outweighs any religious meaning.

“The Court finds the memorial at Mt. Soledad, including its Latin cross, communicates the primarily non-religious messages of military service, death, and sacrifice,” Burns wrote.

As a result, the congressional takeover of the cross by eminent domain – an action that followed another federal judge's order that the cross could not stand on city-owned land – is constitutional, Burns ruled.

Charles LiMandri, a lawyer fighting the cross's removal, said he was delighted though not surprised with the ruling.

“The people of San Diego wanted and deserve this result,” LiMandri said. “They're not going to be able to take that cross down, and they should just deal with it.”

The ruling troubled the lawyers who challenged the transfer of the cross and surrounding veterans memorial to the federal government.

“The central fact of the case is it's a 43-foot-tall cross,” said David Blair-Loy, legal director of the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. “There's nothing more religious than a cross.”

Philip Paulson, the late atheist and Vietnam War veteran, sued over the cross in 1989, and two years later, U.S. District Judge Gordon Thompson said its presence on city land violated a ban on government preference for religions in the California Constitution.

In 2006, after giving the city years to fight or otherwise deal with his ruling, Thompson gave the city an ultimatum: take down the cross or pay daily fines.

That year, Congress passed a law taking the cross and the land on which it sits by eminent domain and giving it to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Paulson died in 2006. Two lawsuits were filed after the federal takeover, one by a friend of Paulson's, another by the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America and three people.

Unlike Thompson, Burns based yesterday's ruling on his reading of the U.S. Constitution, which has a more lenient standard on how religious symbols might appear on federal property than the state constitution.

Two Supreme Court decisions on which he relied were decided by 5-4 votes in 2005. In one, the court said the Ten Commandments couldn't be displayed in Kentucky courthouses because they were “unmistakably religious,” but their display among other monuments on the Texas Capitol grounds was constitutional.

Steve Hut, an attorney for the Jewish veterans group and other cross critics, said he thinks Burns misunderstood the law.

“We think we will ultimately be able to persuade a higher court our view of the facts and the law are correct and Judge Burns' view is not,” Hut said.

Others expect just such an appeal, even if they don't support it.

Harley-Davidson dealership owner Myke Shelby, who is Jewish, helped spur a local ballot measure calling for the federal takeover.

Reached in Pennsylvania last night, Shelby said, “I'm thrilled to hear it. I think it's a long time coming, and hopefully this is it, and the people who want to destroy that war memorial and want to destroy the cross will realize it's over, let it alone, let it be done, walk away.”

William Kellogg, president of the nonprofit Mount Soledad Memorial Association, which built and maintains the cross, said the judge echoed what his association has been saying for years – that the memorial is meant for veterans, not Christians.

“That makes me feel terrific because that truly is what it's all about, honoring veterans,” Kellogg said. “Our mission has been to communicate that to the public for so many years, so I think the language there is very appropriate.”

Mount Soledad cross facing second round in legal fight

Does it stay or does it go?

Once again, the fate of the Mount Soledad cross was the subject of a lengthy hearing in federal court yesterday to determine – or more likely, begin to determine – the ultimate fate of the La Jolla landmark.

The Mount Soledad cross in La Jolla is again the subject of a lawsuit, this time with different plaintiffs.

The 20-ton, 43-foot-tall cross has been the center of an epic legal battle begun in 1989 that has concerned one question: whether the presence of the cross on government property violates the religious establishment clause of the state constitution. The hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Larry A. Burns came in the second round of litigation to decide that issue.

For decades the cross stood on land owned by the city of San Diego, but in 1991 U.S. District Court Judge Gordon Thompson ruled it violated the state constitutional ban on government preference or aid for religion.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the late Philip Paulson, a Vietnam war veteran and atheist. The ruling survived several appeals and stood for more than a decade.

In 2006, Thompson ordered the city to carry out his ruling from 1991, which had been on hold during the appeals, and take down the cross.

That triggered a flurry of legal and political moves. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy took the rare step of intervening in the case and halted Thompson's order.

That allowed a bill in the U.S. Congress transferring the land from the city to the U.S. Department of Defense as a war memorial to pass and be signed by President Bush. Cross supporters had hoped that such a transfer would allow the cross to remain on the property and that the state constitutional issue would become moot.

Almost before the ink was dry, a new lawsuit challenging the transfer to the federal government and the presence of the cross on federal land was filed in federal court.

New plaintiffs were the Jewish War Veterans, a national veterans group, and San Diego resident Steve Trunk, who took the place of Paulson after he died. The city is out of the case, and defense of the cross now falls to the federal government.

At yesterday's hearing, the plaintiffs argued that the cross is a clear religious symbol and is not simply one element in a larger, secular war memorial to honor dead veterans, as cross supporters maintain.

Stephen Hut, the lawyer for the Jewish veterans, said preserving the cross was the main reason why the federal government took over the land in 2006. The government's obligation in the future to maintain the site amounts to an unconstitutional entanglement of the state in religion, he contended.

But Deputy Attorney General Ryan Nelson told Burns the site was a “multifaceted memorial” to veterans and the cross was one aspect of it. He said to single out that one aspect and say the entire site violates the constitution would be wrong.

Since the litigation began, a number of plaques and walls have been placed around the cross honoring deceased veterans. Opponents say those are token symbols of secularism intended to deflect the legal attacks.

Burns expressed doubt that the congressional action to take the land, which was supported by 80 percent of the House of Representatives and all of the Senate, was designed simply to preserve the cross – and not to preserve a war memorial. He noted the language of the legislation talks about preserving a memorial, and courts have to give deference in many matters to legislators and their judgments.

Both sides also debated the impact of Supreme Court decisions in 2005 dealing with religious symbols on public property, saying the court decision helped their cause. In one case, the court allowed a Ten Commandment display to remain, saying it was part of a larger secular purpose.

In a second case, the court said a Ten Commandment display in a Kentucky courthouse had to go because it's purpose was to send a religious message.

Burns did not indicate when he will issue a ruling. But it was clear it would be the first step in another lengthy legal battle.

“I don't have any illusions I'm going to be the last word on this,” Burns said at one point.

City settles with attorney who sued over Mount Soledad cross

January 15, 2008

SAN DIEGO – The City Council has agreed to pay $750,000 to the attorney who sued San Diego over the Mount Soledad cross to settle a dispute over legal fees, it was announced Tuesday.

The City Council voted 6-2 in closed session last week to approve the settlement, the City Attorney's Office disclosed. Councilmen Brian Maienschein and Ben Hueso cast the dissenting votes.

The deal wasn't reported until Tuesday because both parties had not agreed to the settlement, according to the City Attorney's Office.

Last May, U.S. Judge Gordon Thompson Jr. ordered the city to pay lawyer James McElroy more than $900,000 in legal fees for his work on the Mount Soledad cross case brought by atheist Philip Paulson, who challenged the presence of the religious symbol on city land.

Paulson, who died of liver cancer in 2006, filed the lawsuit in 1989, contending that having a Christian symbol on public land was unconstitutional.

President Bush signed a bill in August 2006 transferring the land on which the cross sits to the federal government, thereby removing the city from liability. McElroy is now challenging that move in federal court.

City told to pay lawyer $962,673 in cross case

May 22, 2007

A fight over legal fees is swirling around the Mount Soledad cross.

A federal judge said yesterday that the city of San Diego must pay more than $900,000 in legal fees to the attorney for Philip Paulson, the atheist who sued over the presence of the Mount Soledad cross on city land.

U.S. District Judge Gordon Thompson Jr. ordered that the city pay lawyer James McElroy $962,673.28 for his work on the case over the past four years.

Thompson is the same judge who ruled in 1991 that the cross on city land violated the state constitution's ban on government preference for religions – a ruling that touched off an epic legal battle that continues today.

City Attorney Michael Aguirre immediately said Thompson's ruling would be appealed.

He said the city would argue, as it did unsuccessfully in front of Thompson, that McElroy is not entitled to fees because he was not on the winning side.

McElroy had argued that he had, in fact, won – even though Thompson's 1991 order was never carried out.

He is also involved in a lawsuit against the federal government filed after the land where the cross stands was transferred from the city to the Department of Defense.

This latest twist in the case stems from the flurry of legal action and legislative maneuvering just one year ago.

At that time, McElroy filed papers urging Thompson to order the city finally to comply with his order from 1991.

On May 6, 2006, the judge did so – saying it was “long past time” for the issue to be resolved and ordering the city to remove the cross in 90 days, or face $5,000 in fines per day.

The city appealed and eventually won a stay of Thompson's order from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Meanwhile, a bill that would transfer the property from the city to the federal government moved quickly through Congress. The land transfer would mean the cross was no longer on city land, supporters said – undercutting the central holding in Thompson's ruling that the cross violated the state constitution.

In August, President Bush signed that bill and the federal government took control of the land.

In seeking his legal fees, McElroy argued that asking Thompson last year to enforce his 1991 order set off the chain of events that led to the land transfer to the federal government.

If that hadn't happened, he argued, the city would still be in violation of Thompson's order.

“The federal government would not have taken the cross if not for this lawsuit,” McElroy said after yesterday's hearing. “When the federal government took that land that solved the constitutional problem in Paulson's suit – and we effectively won.”

But Aguirre said that the city will argue McElroy was not the winner – especially given his current suit seeking to overturn the land transfer. “Serious questions remain here if he prevailed at all,” Aguirre said.

Deputy City Attorney David Karlin said that McElroy is, on the one hand, claiming credit for forcing the federal government to take the land – and at the same time, trying to undo that transaction.

“He wants to have it both ways,” he said.

State law allows attorneys fees to be awarded in legal actions that “resulted in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest.” The state Supreme Court has ruled fees can be awarded in instances where the lawsuit was the “catalyst” behind enforcing an important right that affected the public interest.

McElroy contended in court papers that the suit “vindicated” important rights of Californians by forcing the city to transfer the land to the federal government “thus curing the constitutional violation which was at the heart of this case.”

He had initially sought $1.4 million in fees, based on the hours he worked plus a “multiplier” the law allows in certain cases. He bills at a rate of $400 per hour.

The two sides tried to settle the fee issue in past weeks, but could not agree. Aguirre declined to say how much the city offered, but said it was “substantial.”

McElroy noted that in 2004 he offered to waive all his fees as an incentive for the City Council to agree to a settlement. That deal would have moved the cross to the nearby Mount Soledad Presbyterian Church a short distance away.

Reaction from City Hall was muted yesterday. A spokesman for Mayor Jerry Sanders declined to comment. Council President Scott Peters, who has been a critic of Aguirre and represents the district where Mount Soledad is located, said he is concerned about the effects on the city budget as legal costs rise.

Rising expenses have been an issue for San Diego for several years. Sanders has called for cuts of nearly 700 jobs in the fiscal year that begins July 1 in order to spend more than $250 million on the city's pension fund and other long-ignored needs.

“I certainly would have preferred that the city attorney reach a settlement, but that didn't happen,” Sanders said.

Peters said he wants a briefing from Aguirre on the city's basis for appealing, and that he might decide it's “better to just put an end to it,” by paying McElroy, rather than again taking the case to a higher court.

Aguirre said he will discuss the appeal with council members next month.

Staff writer Jennifer Vigil contributed to this report. Greg Moran: (619) 542-4586;

Opponents to San Diego cross subpoena members of Congress

April 20, 2007

Opponents of a 29-foot-tall cross that stands on public parkland in San Diego have subpoenaed three local members of Congress who supported federal legislation designed to shield the monument from legal challenges.

The subpoenas were served on GOP Reps. Darrell Issa, Brian Bilbray and Duncan Hunter last month in connection with a lawsuit over the cross filed by the Jewish War Veterans and individual Jewish and Muslim plaintiffs. Issa and Hunter were subpoenaed for documents. Bilbray was subpoenaed for testimony.

The lawsuit against the Defense Department and the city of San Diego contends that the cross, dedicated in 1954 in honor of Korean War soldiers, excludes veterans who are not Christian.

The plaintiffs, represented by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union, sued last August shortly after President Bush signed the legislation transferring the cross and a war memorial of which it is a part to the federal government.

The subpoenas were made public this week in the Congressional Record. They seek the lawmakers' communications with the executive branch and public interest groups about the cross, and other documents.

The House counsel's office is reviewing the subpoenas and negotiating with the plaintiffs' attorneys, officials said.

Issa's spokesman, Frederick Hill, called the subpoena a "nuisance subpoena" and said that Issa "has no intention of voluntarily assisting this attack on freedom of religion."

"The big point I'd want to make is this lawsuit is part of a meritless assault on a religious symbol," said Hill.

"The cross is on federal property, it violates the church-state separation issue, and therefore it's unconstitutional," Bob Zweiman, an official with the Jewish War Veterans group, said through a spokeswoman.

The subpoenas are the latest chapter in a legal fight that began in 1989, when Philip Paulson, an atheist and a Vietnam War veteran, sued the city of San Diego over the cross.

A series of court decisions deemed that the cross violated the California Constitution because it unfairly favored a single religion. San Diego voters approved a measure to preserve the cross by donating it to the federal government, but a judge declared that measure unconstitutional.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in to block an order that the city take down the cross, and in August Bush signed the legislation transferring the memorial to the federal government.

'Opponents can't remove cross by suing San Diego'

Ruling concludes monument's ownership change eliminates city as defendant

Land transfer upheld in appellate decision

City Attorney Michael Aguirre, joined by Mayor Jerry Sanders (right) and Councilman Jim Madaffer, spoke after the ruling.

December 1, 2006 An appeals court ruling yesterday that upheld a voter-approved measure to transfer land under the Mount Soledad cross to the federal government boosted the hopes of cross supporters but is far from the final word in the emotionally charged legal battle.

The 3-0 decision by the 4th District Court of Appeal overturned a lower court order that invalidated San Diego city voters' approval of Proposition A in July 2005.

The appellate justices gave cross supporters one of the few victories they have seen in the legal fight, which has spanned nearly two decades and has been considered by the highest courts in the nation.

Yesterday's decision, however, affected only one aspect of the ongoing battle. Two lawsuits challenging a second land transfer to the federal government this summer and the cross's presence on public land are in early stages in federal court.

Also, the lawyer for the war veteran and atheist who challenged Proposition A, the land-transfer ballot measure that was overwhelmingly approved last year, said he will ask the state Supreme Court to review the appellate court decision.

Still, it buoyed supporters of the La Jolla landmark and was the second significant legal decision they have won this year.

In July, San Diego city lawyers and cross supporters persuaded U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy to halt an order by a federal judge in San Diego that would have forced the city to move the cross by Aug. 1 or face fines of $5,000 per day.

The legal battle over the Mount Soledad cross in La Jolla has spanned nearly two decades. In July 2005, 75 percent of San Diego voters approved Proposition A, which was intended to transfer the land beneath the cross to the federal government.

After Kennedy's decision, Congress passed a bill transferring the land to the federal government, and President Bush signed it Aug. 14.

Both sides in the controversy differed over what impact the appellate court ruling might have on the pending federal lawsuits.

James McElroy, the lawyer for atheist Philip Paulson, who died in October after fighting the case for more than 17 years, said the issue of Proposition A's constitutionality was moot because the city no longer controls the land.

“It doesn't have a lot of significance in the bigger picture,” McElroy said.

Cross supporters disagreed. They said that if opponents of the land transfer prevail in their latest challenges, the land would revert to the city. In that event, Proposition A essentially would be reactivated – thanks to yesterday's ruling.

“It's a very strong backup position,” said Charles LiMandri, the lawyer for San Diegans for the Mt. Soledad War Memorial, who were allied with city lawyers in the case.

Mayor Jerry Sanders welcomed the ruling as “a win for people who believe in the democratic process.” Proposition A was approved in July 2005 by 75 percent of city voters, a fact that Associate Justice Patricia Benke emphasized in her 53-page decision.

The appeals court focused only on the legal validity of the transfer and did not delve into the constitutional implications of a cross on public land.

Superior Court Judge Patricia Yim Cowett had ruled in October 2005 that the transfer violated the state constitution's ban on government preference or aid to religion. She agreed with McElroy that arguments that Proposition A was designed to save a secular war memorial were a “sham.”

But the 4th District justices disagreed, concluding the language in the initiative was religiously neutral and that there was no objective evidence that city voters endorsed any religion when they passed it.

“Given the language of Proposition A and the official ballot argument in favor of the proposition, we cannot conclude the individuals who voted for the proposition acted in order to establish the Christian religion or favor that religion,” Benke wrote.

Courts cannot “go behind the curtain of the ballot box” to try to determine the intent of each voter who supported the measure, she wrote.

Benke also said it was wrong to conclude that the city's intended transfer of the land to the federal government was an effort to support religion.

The move did not “send a religious message or symbolically support the Christian religion,” she wrote. “However one characterizes the cross on Mount Soledad, as secular, sectarian or a combination thereof, its presence is a historical reality.”

McElroy countered that the intent of the measure was clear. “No one can look at you with a straight face and say the purpose of this measure was not to preserve the cross,” he said.

He said he believed the court should have delayed making a decision until the recent federal cases were resolved.

But Benke said in her ruling that the federal government's move and the new lawsuits did not make the decision on Proposition A irrelevant.

If the federal lawsuits succeed, a decision that the measure is legal “will be of importance,” she said.

“Passage of Proposition A, which was the result of public debate followed by a special election, is part of the continuing controversy,” Benke wrote, referring to the long legal battle. “Under the circumstances the public especially is entitled to a clear statement as to whether and why its action is, or is not, constitutional.”

The appeals court ruling was welcome news for the city on a separate front. The justices reversed Cowett's order that the city pay McElroy's $268,541 in legal costs for the case.

S.D. kept in cross lawsuit

Judge says ruling could affect city

November 30, 2006 A federal judge refused yesterday to dismiss the city of San Diego from a lawsuit challenging the transfer of the Mount Soledad cross to the federal government in an effort to preserve it.

The ruling is the first in the latest suit over the controversial La Jolla landmark, and it comes as state and federal appeals courts ponder rulings against the city in earlier lawsuits.

City officials reacted to earlier rulings that the cross is an unconstitutional preference for religion on city land by seeking its transfer to the federal government. In August, President Bush signed a law transferring ownership of the cross and the land beneath it to the Defense Department.

In the case considered yesterday in San Diego federal court, lawyers for Jewish and atheist veterans have sued to have that law declared unconstitutional. They also claim that having the cross on federal land is unconstitutional.

Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz has consolidated two lawsuits filed by the veterans this year into a single case.

A deputy city attorney argued that San Diego shouldn't be a part of the litigation because it no longer owns the land.

Moskowitz rejected that argument during a brief hearing.

He said he decided not to dismiss the city from the case because if he rules in favor of the cross opponents, the city would be adversely affected and ineligible to appeal his decision.

“You have to be a party, and you should want to be a party,” he told Deputy City Attorney George F. Schaefer.

The judge said he would decide other issues in the case later.

The 27-foot concrete cross has been the subject of litigation since 1989, when Vietnam veteran Philip Paulson sued to have its presence on public land declared unconstitutional.

In May, federal Judge Gordon Thompson Jr. said the cross violated the California Constitution's ban on government aid to religion and said he would fine the city $5,000 a day if it wasn't removed.

His ruling has been put on hold by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and is now before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Meanwhile, a state appeals court is reconsidering a ruling by Superior Court Judge Patricia Cowett that a ballot initiative to transfer the land on which the cross stands to the federal government was unconstitutional.

Both those actions began before the president signed the law that transferred the land to the Defense Department. Cross proponents argue that the transfer renders those lawsuits moot.

Paulson died Oct. 25 of liver cancer but added a friend, Steven Trunk, to the lawsuit so it could continue.

1947 PHILIP PAULSON 2006, Chief opponent of Mount Soledad cross

Vietnam veteran dies of liver cancer


Mount Soledad cross foe Philip Paulson (left) attended a luncheon in his honor Sept. 3.

October 26, 2006 Philip Kevin Paulson, a Lutheran preacher's grandson who lost his religion and waged a 17-year legal battle to remove the Mount Soledad cross from public property, died yesterday of liver cancer. He was 59.

Mr. Paulson, a 6-foot-5 Vietnam War veteran who lived in City Heights, became one of the county's most reviled residents when he prevailed in a lawsuit against the city of San Diego and continued with years of appeals that still are pending.

On July 31, doctors told Mr. Paulson, a Wisconsin native, that he had four months to a year to live. Despite the diagnosis, supporters were surprised to learn Mr. Paulson had died because doctors said recently the cancer appeared to be in remission. After traveling to San Francisco two weeks ago to receive an award, Mr. Paulson experienced flulike symptoms and was bedridden.

On Friday, he went to a hospital complaining of abdominal pain and remained in critical condition until his death at 2 p.m. yesterday, said his live-in companion of 17 years, Lorelei Lindsey.

During hours of interviews with The San Diego Union-Tribune in the past two months, Mr. Paulson said he was unconcerned about death and proud of the stand that he knew would define his life.

“I fought in Vietnam and I thought I fought to maintain freedom and yet the cross savers in this city would have us believe all of the veterans' sacrifices are in vain, that the Constitution is something to be spit on,” Mr. Paulson said.

“The real message is equal treatment under the law, and religious neutrality. That's the purpose of why I did it. It has nothing to do with me being an atheist. The fact is, the Constitution calls for no preference and that's why every judge ruled for me.” Mr. Paulson, who shunned media attention to protect the case, agreed to an exclusive interview on condition that his comments remain confidential until his death or the end of the case. Mr. Paulson said he wanted people to understand why he pursued the removal of the cross, and that he was never motivated by a hatred for Christians.

“I don't harbor those kind of feelings,” he said. “My mother's a Christian. I was raised a devout Christian. I'm not anti-Christian. The reason I did it is because it's not fair to the other religions. America is not just the Christian religion.”

His lawyer, James McElroy, said Mr. Paulson maintained a passion for justice and a sense of humor despite years of death threats, hate mail and legal wrangling.

“For his efforts, Phil was ostracized and treated with scorn and disrespect by many powerful people in our community and across the country as well,” McElroy said. “I suspect many of these same people, especially those that were quick to demean him, lack half of the courage that Phil had. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for fighting this lonely battle for religious tolerance and freedom of conscience.”

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said he was sorry to hear of Mr. Paulson's death.

“I've alway respected people who stick up for what they believe, and I think he did that, and even though I didn't agree with him on the issue of the cross, I still respect him for sticking to his beliefs,” Sanders said.

Steve Trunk, who was chosen by Mr. Paulson to take over as plaintiff in the case, said he was proud of his friend's convictions.

“Whether walking point in a Vietnamese jungle, defending a woman's right to choose, or exercising his duty as a citizen forcing the government to honor the Constitution, Phil personified what it means to be an American,” Trunk said. “I am honored and humbled to have known him.”

Phil Thalheimer, the chairman of San Diegans for the Mount Soledad National War Memorial, which has battled against removing the cross, said that while he disagreed with Mr. Paulson's position, he respected his right to make it.

“Listen, he believed in what he was doing, and I certainly respect him for that,” Thalheimer said. “But I think he was wrong.”

Thalheimer said that recent developments in the long-running case show that Mr. Paulson was beginning to lose his long legal battle.

Though the federal government took possession of the land where the cross stands, the legal fight Mr. Paulson spawned is far from over.

Two lawsuits – one filed by Mr. Paulson and Trunk and a second filed by the ACLU – are working their way jointly through federal court. They challenge the presence of the cross on government property.

Appeals of two other cross-related cases were heard in federal and state appellate courts last week. The San Diego-based 4th District Court of Appeal heard arguments about Proposition A, a measure that city voters passed in November 2005 to willingly give up the land to the federal government.

The city has argued that while the cross has religious significance, it also has a secular purpose – to honor war veterans. Mr. Paulson contended the memorial portion of the hilltop site was built only after he filed suit.

Mr. Paulson said he started to doubt Christianity at a young age.

He grew up in Clayton, Wis., a village of about 300 known then as the blue cheese capital of the world. There was a cheese factory, which employed most of the men, plus a couple of taverns, two Lutheran churches, two general stores and a post office.

His grandfather, the preacher, founded one of the Lutheran churches in town, which almost everyone attended. Mr. Paulson's mother had hoped that he also would become a minister.

“Oh, boy, did I disappoint her,” Mr. Paulson said with a laugh.

He said there were three events that caused him to embrace atheism – being punished as a child for questioning the tenets of Christianity, his experience in Vietnam and a university class about religion.

“I changed when I was kid. I was skeptical of the claims of the Bible. I never could get past the talking snake. I could never get past Jonah getting swallowed by a whale, never get past the idea that Abraham was going to kill Isaac and he was ready to kill his own son because of some illusion of a deity. It was too far-fetched.”

He felt more doubt on Hill 875 during the Battle of Dak To, one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. Mr. Paulson had enlisted in the Army in 1966 at age 18 and became a paratrooper. On the hill in 1967, gunfire and explosions were all around as he frantically carried the wounded and dead. Then his platoon was ambushed at the bottom of the hill. He and another soldier were the only survivors.

“If there was a God, why would God allow for this to happen?” he said. “Where was God to intervene if God was so powerful? I saw people praying. I wasn't praying because I didn't want to waste my precious time when I could be shooting.”

The third part in the process of becoming an atheist was an exercise during a sociology of religion class at the University of Wisconsin, which he attended after his second tour in Vietnam.

“That opened up my mind. That reconfirmed everything in an intellectual way of how I came to my atheist belief . . . .”

He dabbled in many professions after his military service, working briefly as a journalist, in shipyards, in oil fields and apple orchards around the country, and he hopped freight trains to get there. He had romances along the way and a brief marriage, but no children. He taught English to immigrants.

He moved to San Diego in the late 1970s and taught in community colleges and, until becoming ill, he was a professor at National University, teaching computer and business classes.

Mr. Paulson, a storyteller with a deep, booming voice and a tendency to digress, was able to quote scripture and name the Ten Commandments without pause. He was unemotional when discussing traumatic events of combat in Vietnam, his conversion from Christianity to atheism and even his own death, but he raised his voice with passion when talking about the cross case.

After the Union-Tribune published a story last month about Mr. Paulson's diagnosis, the newspaper received e-mails from readers that were both supportive and critical.

Mr. Paulson wanted to know what they said. One reader wrote: “Cremate him and then put his ashes under the cross.” Mr. Paulson thought it was hilarious. Laughing, he said, “I love that one! That's a good one! That made my day!”

Mr. Paulson said he received many calls from well-wishers after the story ran. “It's like having a little memorial service before I die.”

Besides his companion, Mr. Paulson is survived by three older brothers and two younger sisters who live in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Services had not yet been planned.

ACLU sues federal government in battle over San Diego cross

25 August, 2006 SAN DIEGO — The American Civil Liberties Union rejoined a long-running battle over a 29-foot Latin cross standing on public parkland, suing the federal government yesterday, just ten days after President Bush signed legislation designed to shield the monument from legal challenges.

The bill, H.R. 5683, transferred ownership of the hilltop monument from the city of San Diego to the Department of Defense.

The ACLU complaint, filed in San Diego federal court on behalf of the Jewish War Veterans and individual Jewish and Muslim plaintiffs, charges Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with violating the First Amendment.

“The federal acquisition of the Latin cross … does nothing to cure the ongoing constitutional violation,” the lawsuit states. “When any government entity — federal, state, or local — uses taxpayer funds to acquire and prominently display a religious symbol that is sacred to some, but not all, religious believers, it disregards the religious diversity in our society and violates the fundamental right to religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

Federal Appeals Court Rules Against Bible Display At Texas Courthouse

16 August, 2006 A federal appeals court has held that a Bible display outside a Texas county courthouse violates the separation of church and state.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that a religious memorial outside the Harris County Civil Courthouse violates the First Amendment principle of church-state separation.

The ruling in Staley v. Harris County upholds a 2004 district court decision that the display, which prominently features an open Bible illuminated by neon lighting, runs afoul of the Constitution.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State argued before the 5th Circuit that the district judge’s ruling should be upheld against an appeal by Harris County officials.

“A courthouse should welcome citizens of all religious perspectives and none,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “This display sent the clear message that Christianity was the government-preferred faith and other Americans are second-class citizens. In a diverse country, that’s unacceptable.”

The display was erected in 1956 by a Christian charity to honor William S. Mosher, a Houston businessman and philanthropist. The memorial includes a glass-topped case housing an open Bible. The monument, as the 5th Circuit noted, faces the main entrance to the Harris County courthouse and is therefore visible to “attorneys, litigants, jurors, witnesses and other visitors to the Courthouse.”

In its 2-1 ruling, the 5th Circuit concluded that the memorial, because of the actions of Harris County officials, such as Judge Devine, is a government endorsement of Christianity instead of a memorial.

The “reasonable observer would conclude,” the Circuit majority wrote, “that the monument, with the Bible outlined in red neon lighting, had evolved into a predominantly religious symbol.”

Americans United

Senate votes to make catsup a vegtable

Senate votes to put Mount Soledad cross in federal hands

01 August, 2006 With a speed and decisiveness that surprised some, the Senate on Tuesday approved a plan to transfer the land beneath the Mount Soledad war memorial to federal control in an effort to avoid a court-ordered removal of the cross that stands there.

The Senate's unanimous vote sent the cross-transfer plan to President Bush for his expected signature. It creates what some consider an entirely new dynamic in the 17-year effort to save the cross, but which others say is a hopeless attempt to preserve a symbol on city land that courts have said unconstitutionally favors one religion over others.

James McElroy, the attorney representing atheist Philip Paulson – who first sued to remove the cross on the grounds it amounts to an unconstitutional preference of the Christian religion over others – said the bill is “still unconstitutional.”

“I guess the Senate has a short memory,” he said. “You've got a local issue here. What business does the federal government have getting involved?”

bird cage liner


dog trainer

Cross Hugger's spin

Hint to Mt. Soledad cross's fate lies in desert

Friends, foes of memorial await result of Mojave case

27 July, 2006 WASHINGTON – It's a war memorial. It includes a cross. It is on public land. And while politicians use congressional maneuvers to keep the cross there, others say it's unconstitutional and should be removed.

This sounds a lot like the cross atop Mount Soledad in La Jolla, but it's not.

About 275 miles away in the Mojave Desert stands a far less prominent but nonetheless controversial cross that, like the Mount Soledad cross, has been the subject of lawsuits and court-ordered removals. Unlike Mount Soledad, however, the battle surrounding the desert cross at a place called Sunrise Rock has focused on the U.S. Constitution's provisions guaranteeing separation of church and state.

Should the Mount Soledad cross end up in federal hands, as many in Congress would like, its future likely will rest on interpretations of the Constitution. And that, cross foes say, means the history of the Mojave cross may provide clues to the fate of the Mount Soledad cross.

“There are many significant similarities between the two cases,” said Alex Luchenister, an attorney for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which argues that placing religious symbols on public land violates the Constitution.

“In both cases, the government maintained the crosses were war memorials, and in both cases, the courts ruled that displaying the crosses was unconstitutional,” he said.

San Diego cross may provide national legal test

The man who filed suit over the cross in 1989 is a Vietnam veteran who says that, even viewed as a war memorial, the monument excludes veterans who are not Christian.

Philip Paulson has said he would be happy if the 20-ton monument were moved to a churchyard near the hilltop park – or anywhere that is not public land. Paulson declined comment for this story, referring questions to his attorney, James McElroy, a locally prominent civil rights lawyer.

“It's not an obelisk, or just a flag,” McElroy said. “It's a Latin cross, the most powerful symbol of one religion in the world, and it's standing in the middle of a public park like a giant neon ad for that religion.”

House backs transfer of land under cross

In a move that eventually could trigger a test of church-state separation provisions in the Constitution, the House agreed Wednesday to transfer the land beneath San Diego's Mount Soledad cross to the federal government.

After a brief debate, House members voted 349-74 to seize the land and give it to the Defense Department to try to avoid a court-ordered removal of the 43-foot-tall cross.

“The memorial cross serves a legitimate secular purpose of commemorating our nation's war dead and veterans,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine. “Therefore, the display of the Mount Soledad cross on federal property ... is constitutional.”

Hunter was one of three San Diego-area Republican congressmen who co-wrote the legislation to preserve the cross, which was dedicated in 1954 as a Korean War veterans memorial.

Under federal law, which is more flexible on the issue than California law, religious displays have sometimes been allowed to stand on public property if they have historic or cultural significance.

The House vote, which sent the issue to the Senate, paved the way for what could be a new legal dynamic in the long-running battle over the cross that stands atop 800-foot Mount Soledad. Should the Senate approve the legislation and President Bush sign it, foes of the cross have vowed to challenge the action in court.

Justice's decision suggests high court would hear case

08 July, 2006 U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy extended his temporary stay protecting the Mount Soledad cross yesterday until state and federal courts can hear appeals this fall by the city of San Diego to preserve the landmark.

In blocking a federal judge's order that the city remove the cross by Aug. 1 or face a $5,000 daily fine, Kennedy indicated that the full court would review the case if it were to come before the court.

Kennedy said the court, which refused three years ago to get involved in the dispute, may consider it because of two new factors favorable to cross proponents.

He cited legislation to designate the city-owned land a national veterans memorial and a ballot initiative in which San Diegans overwhelmingly voted to transfer the land to the federal government.

Kennedy's move is a big boost for cross supporters and the city in their efforts to preserve the La Jolla landmark, which is part of a veterans memorial.

The cross was ordered removed in 1991 by U.S. District Court Judge Gordon Thompson Jr. in San Diego federal court. Thompson said the cross was a religious symbol whose presence violated the state Constitution's ban on a government showing a preference for religion.

Kennedy's opinion pdf

Supreme Court Gives Cross in San Diego a Reprieve

04 July, 2006 A long-running legal battle over a 29-foot-tall cross atop one of the highest hills in San Diego took a new twist on Monday when the United States Supreme Court issued a stay temporarily blocking a lower court order forcing the city to remove it.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, without comment, issued the stay pending a further order from the court. The action blocked a ruling by a district court that would have imposed daily fines of $5,000 beginning on Aug. 1 if the city had not taken down the cross.

The stay gave a flicker of hope to supporters of the 20-ton white cross who have been on the losing side of most federal and state court rulings since an atheist, Philip K. Paulson, sued in 1989. Mr. Paulson argued that the cross, in a city property park in the La Jolla district, was an unconstitutional preference of one religion over another.

Mr. Paulson's lawyer, James E. McElroy, said it was not unusual for a justice to issue such an order and called it more a technicality than any reading of the merits.

"All it says," Mr. McElroy said, "is 'Hold on, I'll get back to you with my decision.' "

The first cross was built on the spot in 1913 and figured prominently in Easter sunrise services. The latest was built in 1954 to replace one that had fallen in a windstorm. It was dedicated on Easter Sunday that year as a Korean War veterans' memorial.

After Mr. Paulson sued, the group that built and maintains the cross surrounded it with commemorations of the war dead, including concentric walls with plaques. Mr. Paulson argued that the additions served just to camouflage the true purpose of the cross, to promote Christianity.

Defenders of the cross and city lawyers argue that the cross, with or without the memorial plaques, was intended as a tribute to war dead.

dog trainer

Congressman asks President Bush to help save San Diego cross

UT story

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee asked President Bush to help save a 29-foot cross standing on San Diego city property from being removed by court order.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, joined Thursday by Mayor Jerry Sanders, asked the president to exercise his power of eminent domain and take over the half-acre cross site atop Mount Soledad.

Hunter, who has backed legislation to protect the cross, sent a letter to the White House requesting "urgent assistance" to keep it intact.

"The federal government has lots of memorials with crosses on it," he said. "According to the court decisions, you'd have to dismantle Arlington (National) Cemetery."

There are very few crosses visible at Arlington National Cemetery, the grave markers are not cross shaped. Each marker has a small religious symbol on it. There are several crosses, up to ten feet high, as part of displays. On Mt. Soledad the cross is 29 feet tall and is the central symbol; untill recently the cross was the only religious symbol on Mt. Soledad.

read Hunters letter. Mr. Hunter again attacks liberals, blaming "liberal judges".

Supporters of the cross hope to transfer the legal responsibility of defending the cross to the US taxpayer.

Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial

  • Honorary Brick Paver: $100

Individual Recognition Plaque, Honors a veteran on one of three plaque sizes distinctly designed for each veteran.

  • Name and photo of veteran
  • Rank or rating and branch of service
  • War or campaign, such as WWII, Vietnam, Southwest Asia
  • Medals and ribbons
  • Key tribute to veteran - service statement up to 25 words that 'tells the story' of military service
  • Family appreciation statement up to six words
  • Military patches and one non-military symbol, such as a religious symbol, veterans' or other organization

$600 to $1,500