[JURIST] The US Senate on Tuesday approved a measure [PDF text; HR 5683 summary] to seize land on Mount Soledad in San Diego, thus permitting the First Amendment [text], rather than the California constitution, to control the issue of whether a cross [image], erected on the land as a tribute to Vietnam War veterans, is an impermissible government endorsement of religion. The US House of Representatives last month agreed to transfer the land to the Defense Department [JURIST report] before an expected appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit this fall because federal law has been more permissive toward religious displays on public property than the California constitution [text].
Last month, US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy ordered the continuation of a temporary stay [JURIST reports] against the removal of the monument pending the Ninth Circuit appeal. Kennedy issued the original stay after a district court ordered [Union-Tribune report] in May that the cross be removed by Aug. 2 and that the city be fined $5,000 a day if it was not, finding that the cross constitutes a state endorsement of religion. Philip Paulson, an atheist and Vietnam War veteran, has been challenging the cross for more than 16 years [Paulson commentary]. The Los Angeles Times has more.