This story comes from an online article printed by The American Humanist Association. A planned war memorial at a baseball park in Lake Elsinore became the target of a lawsuit because many members of the community along with organizations interested in civil liberties voiced outrage for the narrow depiction of a single faith to be depicted on the face of the monument. An attorney had previously warned the council that the design would be interpreted as unconstitutional, but the city moved forward as a symbolic show of support for their Christian principles. Were this monument privately funded would the court have reached a similar ruling?
“(Los Angeles, CA—Feb. 27, 2014)—A federal judge has ruled that a planned religious war memorial by the city of Lake Elsinore, CA at the city-owned baseball stadium can’t be built because it “violates both the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause and California’s Establishment and No Preference Clauses.” The planned monument depicts a soldier kneeling in prayer before a Christian cross.
The suit was filed by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center in May 2013. A preliminary injunction against the city was issued by US District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson in July 2013 and stopped activity until the final ruling was handed down. Among other things, the judge ruled that the planned monument lacks a secular purpose and has the unconstitutional effect of endorsing religion over non-religion.
“I’m pleased Judge Wilson decided to uphold the valuable principles contained within the First Amendment,” said Appignani Humanist Legal Center Director David Niose. “I hope that if members of the city council still want to honor veterans, they will move forward with a monument design that represents everyone who fought for our freedoms.”
The suit and an earlier letter sent to the city contain details about the times several city officials and supporters of the proposed monument publicly declared the Christian symbolism was at least part of the reason they supported its construction. Despite the clearly sectarian motivation for spending public money—and a warning from the city’s attorney that the monument as approved is likely unconstitutional—the city council unanimously voted to approve the monument anyway, saying that they were “taking a stand” for Christianity and against the separation of church and state.
Officials from the City of Lake Elsinore have the option to appeal the ruling.”