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By Attorney Rees Lloyd
May 18, 2013

As the fight against the ACLU to save the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial cross continues in its 24th year, I forward a link to a Fox 5 news report in San Diego on the Mt. Soledad Memorial getting "more space to expand" to allow for more plaques honoring veterans to be added to the some 3,400 plaques already dedicated.

The report also references the ongoing legal battle against the extremist ACLU, which has become the Taliban of American liberal secularism, to save the memorial "as it is where it is," i.e., with the Cross honoring veterans intact.

The importance of the Mt. Soledad Memorial Cross case cannot be overestimated. Since the battle to save the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross from destruction by the ACLU was won in 2012, the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial Case is the single most important Establishment of Religion case affecting veterans memorials. It will set a precedent affecting not only this generation, but generations of Americans far into the future.

What is really at stake is whether 300-million Americans will continue to have the ability to honor their war dead and the service of other veterans as those Americans choose; or whether ideologically motivated special interest groups, atheists, agnostics, intolerant secular extremists epitomized by the ACLU, or intolerant Muslims striving to transform America from a free republic under the U.S. Constitution into an Islamic republic under Sharia Law, will have the right to veto those decisions.

Among others involved in the battle, The American Legion, the largest cross defending veterans organization in the county, became involved in litigation combating the ACLU, the largest cross-destroying secular extremist organization in the country, in 2006. In that year, a U.S. Judge ordered the City of San Diego to remove or destroy the Cross honoring veterans at the Memorial within 90 days or he would fine the taxpayers of San Diego $5,000 a day.

The Legion then filed friend of the court briefs in support of San Diego citizens standing up to the ACLU represented by Attorney Charles S. LiMandri, Western Regional Director of the Thomas Law Center. As lead attorney for the citizens, LiMandri has done more than any other single attorney or person to save the Mt. Soledad Memorial "as it is, where it is." LiMandri has expended well over a million dollars in pro bono attorney time defending the Memorial; while the ACLU and ACLU-connected lawyers have pocketed well over $1-million in taxpayer-paid, judge-ordered attorney fee "awards" in litigation to destroy the Cross.

The Cross-destruction order was appealed to the Ninth Circuit, along with an emergency petition for an order to "stay" the destruction of the Cross until the appeal could be decided. The 9th Circuit denied a stay, which meant the Cross could be destroyed before the appeal could even be heard. Although it is extremely rare that the U.S. Supreme Court issues a stay order after denial by a circuit court, an emergency petition was filed to the U.S. Supreme Court -- which issued a stay ordered by Justice Kennedy.

Meanwhile, the U.S. House overwhelmingly, and the U.S. Senate without objection (including by then-Sen. Barack Obama), approved passage of the Mt. Soledad War Memorial Protection Act. It was immediately signed into law by then-President George W. Bush, who invited LiMandri to attend the White House bill-signing ceremonies due to LiMandri's extraordinary efforts to save the Memorial.

That Act transferred ownership of the Memorial from the City of San Diego to the Department of Defense. That transfer to the federal government nullified the orders to destroy the Cross, which had issued in a lawsuit brought in federal court, but under the California, not the U.S. Constitution.

However, the ACLU then filed a new lawsuit suing the U.S. Government to destroy the cross under the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. District Court in San Diego ruled that the Cross does not violate the Establishment of Religion Clause because a reasonable person would understand the Memorial is to honor veterans, not to endorse any particular religion or religion in general.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeal, the most liberal, most reversed circuit in the nation, predictably overturned the U.S. District Court decision. Petitions for Supreme Court review were filed. The Supreme Court declined to grant the petitions, but remanded the case to the U.S. District Court, on the ground the judgment was not complete and ripe for review because there was no remedy provided. Justice Alito wrote a separate statement noting that the Court's declination to grant review at that time shouldn't be interpreted as closing the door to a new petition after a remedy was ordered in the court below.

Most recently, the U.S. District Court in San Diego, after months of inaction on the case since the remand, has ordered the attorneys for the ACLU and the defendant U.S. Department of Defense, represented by the Department of Justice, and the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association, represented by Liberty Institute in Texas, to file confidential settlement briefs by June 21 and attend a Settlement Conference on June 28, 2013, to attempt to reach a resolution. (Notice and Order available online in Trunk, et al. v. City of San Diego, et al., Case No. 3:06-cv-01597-LAB-WMC, May 5, 2013.)

Meanwhile, in April, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-50th Dist., CA), a Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, introduced the War Memorial Protection Act, HR 1497, in the 113th Congress, joined by 19 co-sponsors in the House. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), filed an identical bill in the Senate, S705.

This is significant legislation that needs to be actively supported. The Hunter-Burr bills, if passed, would "ensure that memorials commemorating the service of the United States Armed Forces may contain religious symbols," including "works of architecture and art."

What happens with the Rep. Duncan Hunter – Sen. Richard Burr "War Memorial Protection Act(s), H.R. 1497 and S705, is extremely important."

What happens at the settlement negotiations ordered by the U.S. District Court in the Mt. Soledad case for June 28 (unfortunately the same day that our California American Legion Convention begins) is also extremely important.

What American veterans and other patriots do, or do not do, to preserve the right of Americans to honor their war dead and other veterans as they choose, is also of extreme importance.

What can be done immediately is to support and call on House and Senate representatives to pass the Duncan Hunter-Richard Burr "War Memorial Protection Act," H.R. 1497 and S705 respectively; to combat the intolerant extremists epitomized by the ACLU; and, for an easy start, to watch the Fox 5 news report on the expanding Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial for a glimpse of why the fight is so important.

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I will be reporting on this when I speak as Director of the Defense of Veterans Memorials Project of The American Legion Department of California at the Department Convention on Saturday, June 29, 2013, at 2:30 p.m., which report will include honoring Henry and Wanda Sandoz, the citizen-heroes whose donation of five acres of their own land saved the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial.

More American patriots like Henry and Wanda Sandoz, desert country from Yucca Valley who describe themselves as "just ordinary Americans trying to do the right thing," and the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial can also be saved.


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Rees Lloyd, a one time ACLU staff attorney, is the co-founder and director of the Defense of Veterans Memorial Project of the American Legion Dept. of California, and a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce.

A longtime civil rights attorney and veterans activist whose work has been honored by, among others, the California Senate and Assembly, and numerous civil rights, workers rights, and veterans rights organizations. He has testified as a constitutional expert at hearings before the U.S. House and Senate representing The American Legion.

He has been profiled, and his work featured, by such varied print media as the Los Angeles Times and American Legion Magazine, and such broadcast media as ABC's Nightline and 20/20, Fox News In The Morning, and, among others, by Hannity. His writings have appeared in a variety of national, regional, and local newspaper, magazine, and other publications. He is a frequent radio commentator, and a sought after speaker.*

[*For identification only. The views expressed here are solely Rees Lloyd's and not necessarily any person, entity or organization he may otherwise represent. ]











That Act transferred ownership of the Memorial from the City of San Diego to the Department of Defense. That transfer to the federal government nullified the orders to destroy the Cross, which had issued in a lawsuit brought in federal court, but under the California, not the U.S. Constitution.