Soledad Cross – Monument to Underhanded Christian Politics

The giant Christian cross on Mt Soledad in San Diego has been the focus a long-running fight to promote Christianity on public land. The National Defense Authorization Act, published December 2nd, includes a provision to confer the Mt Soledad Cross to the Secretary of Defense and then to a private party. This follows a convoluted, 20+ year legal battle, and the direction only adds more confusion. What it does not do is transfer the cross to truly private land where it belongs.

Christian nation evangelists use whatever tactics they can think of to promote Christianity using federal property, funds, and authority. This threatens the integrity of our federal government and free exercise for all citizens. Unfortunately, crosses and other religious monuments, invariably Christian or responses to Christian monuments, continue to come up throughout the nation. This needs to stop so Christians can have their displays on their own land, not federal land or federal land deeded to private parties in a transparent effort to subvert our Constitution.

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Section 2852 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2013 provides for a requirement to “Convey Mt Soledad Veterans Memorial” with “significant reductions in market value” and an allowance that payment need not be received up front. Oddly the Act provides for conveyance of the “Memorial” and makes no mention of the land. Furthermore, the federal government is making the sale contingent on its being used as a “veterans memorial” which means that 1) the federal government still controls the land and 2) it’s still a giant cross not a veterans memorial. Even by the wording of the law, the transference would be invalid: The wording of Section 2852 specifically requires that the land be “unencumbered by structures not intended for the purpose.” Any reasonable application of the word ‘encumber’ would include a 43-foot cross on the land.

This Act follows a June 2014 refusal by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the case in 2014 and an earlier 2012 decision by the Supreme Court. In both cases, the appeals were denied because the federal government had not yet acted and this action by the government may constitute standing to re-engage to have the cross removed to actual private property. In a related decision, The Courts agreed to allow in 2012 an exchange of federal and private land so that a cross on federal land in the Mojave Desert could be, only by the technical letter of the law, on private land.

The Easter Cross on Mount Soledad was erected as such in 1913 and was declared a ‘veterans memorial’ only after Phil Paulson, a Vietnam veteran, brought suit in 1989. In addition to renaming the memorial, a group of private citizens began surrounding the cross with pictures of veterans to support the pretext of its being a veterans memorial. The cross has always been a promotion of Christianity and surrounding the cross with pictures of veterans, throwing dead soldiers on the cross, is an insult to veterans. If the memorial association truly supports veterans, they would simply keep the pictures and remove the cross to a church where it could be displayed, in public, on truly private land.

The Soledad cross is part of a network of government-sponsored religious shrines on federal land around the country. Several locations in California, including Camp Pendleton, North Carolina, Montana, Maryland, Rhode Island, and elsewhere have seen incursions of Christianity under the pretext of honoring the military. Incidentally, section 2853 of the NDAA provides for a privately-funded Navy Yard memorial to commemorate the shootings there, and with this Soledad issue, one should be worried this will become a Christian shrine as well.

This disgraceful subversion of veterans can only be called stolen valor. Our service is being used to evangelize Christianity on government property and results from the unfortunate reality of the long-standing evangelism so prevalent in our military. The rash of “veterans” crosses on federal land illustrates the need for a secular military as a guarantee of a secular government.

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