2005-11-05-Mt. Soledad Cross
Donald H. Harrison
He made a pointed appeal for help on Monday, Oct. 17, at a gathering of the American Jewish Committee in the home of Richard Levi. It was clear from the introduction given to McElroy by Tad Seth Parzen, president of AJC’s San Diego chapter, that Parzen favors rendering such support to McElroy and his client Philip Paulson, who have fought for 16 years to remove the cross from the public park above La Jolla.
However, any formal action will require a vote of AJC’s board. Parzen said a meeting to discuss this possibly will be scheduled within the next two months.
On July 26 San Diego city voters
overwhelmingly approved a measure to transfer Mount Soledad Memorial to the
U.S. Interior Department in the expectation that the cross would be
maintained. On Oct. 7, Superior
Court Judge Patricia Yim Cowett forbade the transfer, saying it would be “an unconstitutional aid to religion in violation of
Article XVI, Section 5, of the California Constitution.”
McElroy told the AJC members that constitutional protections for the rights of minorities are not subject to popular vote. “What if people in Montgomery County (Alabama) voted when Rosa Parks decided she didn’t want to sit in the back of the bus?” asked the attorney in reference to the incident generally credited with sparking the U.S. Civil Rights movement.
Saying the struggle over Mount Soledad was one to end governmental preference for one religion over another, McElroy said only recently have forces intent on saving the cross been trying to convert it into a war memorial.
“The cross was dedicated on an Easter Sunday,” he said. “It had been the site of Easter Sunday sunrise services until the suit (by Paulson) was filed (in 1989).” He paraphrased a rabbi, whom he did not identify, as telling him that while he has been asked to officiate at weddings at venues all over the county, not once has any Jewish couple asked to be married under the cross.
Charles LiMandri, who is the attorney for
the Thomas More Law Center, was selected by City Attorney Michael Aguirre to
represent the city in the case before Judge Cowett. The Thomas More Center
describes itself as being “dedicated
to the defense and promotion of the religious freedom of Christians.”
said Aguirre believes the city should abandon its efforts to resist the
removal of the cross, but appointed LiMandri in an effort to demonstrate his
fairness to advocates for the cross. Whatever
Aguirre’s intentions, said McElroy, this was just one more example of the
city aligning itself with the cause of one religion over others.