Mt. Soledad Cross Case
On Friday, July 17, 2015, title to the Mount Soledad National Veterans War Memorial was transferred from the United States Department of Defense to the Mount Soledad Memorial Association pursuant to a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2015 (H.R. 3979, section 2852), sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R. Calif.).
Litigation challenging the presence of the Mt. Soledad Memorial Cross on federal property is pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Case No. 08-56415), which is being advised of the transfer of ownership. The Ninth Circuit could send the case back to the District Court for additional proceedings or take some other action.
The Memorial is one of the most visited parks in San Diego, according to Bruce Bailey, President and CEO of the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association board of trustees. In an interview with local news, Bailey stated “I am honored to be leading our Association at this most significant time in our Memorial’s history. It marks the first time where our membership can manage the Memorial's affairs from a place of ownership and accountability for the property, which is a new and welcomed step for the Association.”
Charles S. LiMandri, President and Chief Counsel for the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, has actively participated in efforts to maintain the Memorial Cross “as it is, where it is” since 2004. The FCDF represents Congressman Duncan Hunter along with Attorney Pete Lepiscopo. Congressman Hunter is a marine combat veteran from the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan and he sponsored the federal legislation which allowed for the transfer. Mr. LiMandri states, “We are delighted that the longest running religious liberty case is coming to a successful conclusion after 26 years. Any future legal challenge to the transfer of the Memorial property from the federal government to the Memorial Association is likely to fail in light of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Salazar v. Buono, 559 U.S. 700 (2010), which approved transfer of federal property to private ownership for the purpose of preserving the Mojave Memorial Cross.”
Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund extends its hearty congratulations to the Memorial Association and its counsel.