On the highest point of the city of San Diego, the apex of Mount Soledad in the village of LaJolla, there had long been something called the Easter Cross. It had a checkered history, being used for religious services and also, reportedly, as a rallying point for the KKK. In this upscale, long restricted community,no Blacks, Mexicans or Jews were allowed. In 1989, this cross being on city property in clear violation of the constitution, Phillip Paulson, along with another friend, brought a lawsuit against the city. The merits of the case being so clear, they won the case on their own without legal assistance or funding from any organization.
For those who want to take a side trip, I recently wrote a diary Onward Christian Soldiers that goes into some of our national historical values that are being shredded by these events. Rather than repeat that diary, let me just say that Paulson's legal victory set up a reaction that vilified him, debased the California and now the United States Constitutions, and fostered an unprecedented torrent of hatred against those who would "destroy our cross."
After seventeen years of legal victories in District and Federal Appeals Courts, reflecting the unanimous opinions of no less than 44 federal judges. After endless delaying tactics and city referendums, as if a majority vote overrides constitutional protections, the end seemed near with a court order from the district judge to remove the cross. As a last ditch effort, three local Congressmen floated a bill to federalize the memorial, using, for the first time, the power of eminent domain to protect a religious icon. It passed the House with only 74 democrats opposing it. It would be up to the Senate to take a stand.
I knew that the vote was coming up, so I was on the phone to the offices of my Senators here in California, telling them of the netroots view of this issue: of five hundred votes the overwhelming majority expressed contempt for any senator supporting this bill. They countered my poll results with, "we have our own polls." I was actually on the phone when the vote was taken. Not only did we lose, it was abject surrender.
The Democratic Senators tried to portray this vote as meaningless, that the courts would have the final word. Such cynicism is breathtaking. Those who follow these things remember how nominee John Roberts described Justice Jackson's principle, that Senatorial decisions have influence in gray areas of presidential power. The President signed the bill into law in a simple ceremony, admonishing "activist judges," who would dare go against the will of the people.
You can read all about in the San Diego Union Tribune. They should be proud, as their thousands of references to "atheist" Paulson, rather than "combat veteran Paulson" and their editorials on "saving our cross" really did the job. It is so easy to rouse people to rage when they feel their religion is under attack. They really get passionate about it. Hey, it works in Northern Ireland, India and Iraq. Why not here?
Depressing? You bet. I warned you not to read this.