My friend Phil Paulson who typed the first brief of his law suit in 1989, didn't live to see this day. The Supreme Court finally, by refusing certiorari, affirmed the ninth circuit decision that the cross on public land that Paulson challenged, is, in fact, unconstitutional.
As I have been spending this day revising and editing my website, Soledad Veteran's Memorial, certain things have become clearer about this long odyssey, and just how close we came to the outcome being different. I also have been focusing on attempting to change the tone of hatred that had permeated San Diego, where the cross is located. Since the first suit so long ago, Paulson earned a new first name in the local press; not combat veteran, or professor, but atheist, always "atheist Phil Paulson" with contempt so clear it jumped off the pages of the Union Tribune.
I tried to affect this change by getting a jump on the response to the decision, from anger to acceptance. The hatred hadn't always been there. There was a time when a resolution was at hand (from the history section of my website):
The Court further implored the parties to “settle this case! It’s time to move the cross from public land to private land and comply with the laws of our great country instead of trying to find sneaky ways to get around them to pander to a certain group or to satisfy an out-of-state group’s religious agenda.”I happened to have had an extensive conversation with the CEO of Mount Soledad Memorial Association, , MSMA and when I asked if the members voted on the above resolution, he said that the executive board voted unanimously to approve it. He then went on to say that it was the local churches and politicians who fought the deal and not the members.
The parties engaged in extensive settlement discussions over the course of several weeks and agreed to settle the case by moving the Latin cross 1,000 yards to a nearby church. Under the terms of the settlement, the MSMA would be allowed to maintain an interest in the Mt. Soledad property and war memorial, and the Latin cross would be replaced with a nonsectarian symbol that would appropriately recognize all veterans in exchange for an end to litigation. The settlement terms were presented to the City Council on July 20 and 27, 2004.
Alito wrote a statement to accompany the notice of denial of certiorari that was in the spirit of what I now consider to be neo-Christian Dominationists who would water down our constitutional proscription against establishment of religion until nothing would stop this from being the Christian country of their dreams. It trivialized the decision, making it seem that it was not a confirmation of the unconstitutionality of the cross, but because it was not ripe. It was absurd, as the only reason it was not ripe is the Supreme court was considering taking the appeal.
But, for this day, the good guys won. The cabal of Alito, Thomas and probably Scalia, could not get the one additional vote to grant certiorari to review this brilliant and wise decision of the embattled Ninth circuit.
I have more links and details on my website, and don't want to burden this diary with them, but it's here for those interested.
This is something to celebrate.