AHA Wins Lawsuit Against Lake Elsinore Cross Monument

The City of Lake Elsinore, California, has declined to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that a public monument depicting crosses violates the Establishment Clause of the U. S. Constitution and the Establishment Clause and No Preference Clause of the California constitution.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center in May 2013 on behalf of local residents who objected to the government-endorsed religious message of the planned monument. Meant to honor war veterans, the memorial’s design prominently features the image of a soldier kneeling before a Christian cross. A U.S. District Court ruled in February 2014 that the city’s use of that design favors religion over non-religion, violating the separation of church and state. Today, the city has agreed to not appeal the case.

“We are pleased with the city’s decision not to appeal,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Continuing to fight this lawsuit would waste taxpayer dollars to support a monument that clearly violates the separation of church and state.”

The American Humanist Association originally sent a letter to the City of Lake Elsinore when some city officials and supporters of the proposed monument publicly declared the Christian symbolism was at least part of the reason why they supported its construction. In July 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson issued a preliminary injunction against the city, which halted the building of the monument until the final ruling. Now that the city has agreed not to appeal that ruling, it can choose to spend those public funds on a design that honors all veterans.

“The Lake Elsinore monument violated the Constitution and was unnecessarily divisive,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “We should erect memorials that respect everyone who fought for our freedoms—religious and non-religious alike.”

The final ruling on the case can be viewed here.