SAN DIEGO, (AP) — The U.S. Senate voted by unanimous consent Tuesday to acquire a concrete cross in San Diego and the municipal park around it to protect the embattled monument from being taken down.
The 29-foot-tall cross has been the target of a 17-year court battle between an atheist and San Diego, which owns the hilltop property where the monument stands.
A federal judge ruled in May that because it stands on city land, the cross violates a state constitutional prohibition on the governmental endorsement of any one religion.
Federal ownership would make the existing lawsuit moot and might also insulate the cross from further legal challenges under the U.S. Constitution. Under federal law, which is more flexible than California law, religious displays may stand on public property if they have a secular meaning.
In July, the Supreme Court indicated it might be willing to consider the case once appeals the city has pending in federal and state courts have been exhausted.
City officials have argued that the cross is part of a secular memorial commemorating veterans of the Korean War.
The bill to federalize the cross was introduced in July by San Diego-area Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, and passed the House with overwhelming approval. California’s two Democratic senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, moved the bill for consent in the Senate.
The bill will now be forwarded directly to President Bush.
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