Debate over Mt. Soledad cross could be over
LA JOLLA (CNS) – Legislation that would authorize the transfer of the Mount Soledad cross to a group that runs a war memorial on the La Jolla property passed Congress last week and is headed to President Barack Obama’s desk.
The Mount Soledad provision is a very small part of the $584 billion Defense Authorization Act, but it could make a major impact on a decades-long dispute over whether the cross should be allowed to stand.
“We are certainly very delighted that all this occurred and that at some point this property will be transferred to us,” Bruce Bailey, the president and CEO of the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, told City News Service.
The fate of the 43-foot-tall cross has been tied up in the courts for years by opponents who contend the use of the cross as a symbol favors one religion above others, particularly since the land on which it stands is now federally owned.
A U.S. District Court judge’s ruling favoring the cross was overturned on appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the case. The district judge in San Diego subsequently ordered the cross to be taken down — pending further appeals.
Under the defense bill provision, authored by Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-El Cajon, ownership of the property will be transferred to the association and be kept in perpetuity as a war memorial, Bailey said. Otherwise, ownership would revert back to the federal government, he said.
Bailey said the association will pay an amount to be determined by an appraiser.
“That’s the key, and is what makes this transfer different from all the others,” Bailey said.
He said the land was appraised at $1.3 million two years ago. The association plans to hold a fundraiser at some point to collect the needed funds.
While there are still hoops to climb through, he said he hopes that ownership of the land can take place in the first half of next year.