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Home / Articles / Opinion / Sordid Tales /  The ...
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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The context and history of the Mt. Soledad holy-torture device

Do the cross supporters think they’re going to fool the Supreme Court?

By Edwin Decker

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing government meetings to open with prayer has caused many to speculate about how the court will decide the Mt. Soledad Memorial cross issue, should the court choose to review it.

For those who don't know, the Mount Soledad Memorial Association (MSMA) petitioned SCOTUS in March, hoping to overturn the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the gigantic, sacred torture device is in violation of the First Amendment.

"What matters is context and history," declared the MSMA in the opening statement of its petition. "[And] the context and history of the Memorial make clear that its primary purpose and effect is not to endorse religion, but to honor veterans."

First of all, can we please get real? The "memorial" is nearly 30 feet tall, perched atop a 14-foot base, on the summit of an 800-foot mountain and towers over La Jolla like an enormous nightstick of the Jesus police. Saying its primary purpose is to honor veterans and not endorse Christianity is like saying the primary purpose of a Coors billboard is to honor the Rocky Mountains and not endorse beer drinking.

But it's the part of the petition that refers to "context and history" that is most confounding. I can't think of anything more damning to the MSMA's argument than the memorial's context and history. What follows is a little of both:

History: The current cross is actually the third incarnation, built in 1954. The first was erected in 1913, some 37 years before the Korean War, which it supposedly memorializes. 

The legal name of the monument, on guides and maps and such, was the Mt. Soledad Easter cross, not changed to its current, secular moniker, the Mt. Soledad Memorial, until 1989—after a lawsuit was filed against the city that same year—making one wonder if the name was changed for the benefit of lawyers, not veterans. There were no markers identifying the site as a war memorial until 1990, also after the cross case was filed. In fact, for the majority of its existence, the memorial consisted of the cross alone.

As pointed out by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in its 2011 ruling, the original cross was put on Mt. Soledad because "it was considered 'a fitting place on which to erect an emblem of faith.'"

In 1954, when the MSMA asked the La Jolla Town Council for permission to construct yet another bombastic cruciate of divine torture, the organization cited the site as being "worthy as a setting for this symbol of Christianity."

At the dedication ceremony on, naturally, Easter Sunday 1954, the president of the MSMA said the cross was dedicated to "Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" and the program defined the cross as "a gleaming white symbol of Christianity."

Context: Remember now, according to the MSMA, history and context confirm that honoring war veterans is the "primary purpose and effect" of the cross. Please note the word "effect." Because, as the 9th Circuit correctly noted, "The Memorial's physical setting amplifies the message of endorsement" and "contributes to its sectarian effect."

The point is, no matter how many times you say it's a war memorial, no matter how many dead-soldier placards you put up there, the net effect to the millions of people who look up that mountain is that a giant, Christian cross is looming over them like a sword that had been plunged into the bald spot on top of a blasphemer's head.

More context? Cross supporters say it's a multi-religious site, yet there's no record of any non-Christian denomination having a religious service there.

Supporters say a cross is often placed on other veteran memorials, referring to the famous rows of crosses at Arlington and other military cemeteries. But those are markers for individual soldiers, not a gaudy, bloated centerpiece. In fact, according to the 9th Circuit, "There is no comparable memorial on public land in which the cross holds such a pivotal and imposing stature."

Finally, there is this most damning bit of "context"—actually it's both context and history, as it refers to what was going on in La Jolla in 1954, when the cross was erected: It was at that time that the village of La Jolla harbored a persistent, institutional contempt for Jewish people. The documentation is abundant, but it was in the housing industry where these sniggering pigs oinked the ugliest.

It was called "The La Jolla Covenant," a pact among real-estate firms and home sellers not to sell or rent to Jews. It was a full-on conspiracy administered by the La Jolla Real Estate Brokers Association, which would notify local real-estate offices when a descendant of Jacob was perusing the market.

Yup, that's what was happening at the time when the good citizens of La Jolla mounted their "Get bent" cross on top of the highest mountain in ScrewJewland. There's your history and context that supposedly confirms that the cross is, and was always meant to be, a war memorial. 

So, what gives? Does the MSMA think it's going to get one over on the Supreme Court? That maybe SCOTUS isn't going to check the history and context? More likely, the Mount Soledad Memorial Association doesn't know the history of the goddamn Mt. Soledad Memorial! In any case, can we all agree on what the dang thing is not? It's not a bird feeder. It's not a coat hanger. It's not a bungee platform. It's a cross. A Latin cross. The shiny, golden idol at the end of the Pope's staff and the top of Laura Ingraham's cleavage. A symbol of the sacrifice Jesus made to mankind. If that isn't an endorsement of Christianity, then talking geckos don't endorse car insurance.

Write to ed@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.

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