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Judge orders removal of long-standing war memorial cross

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A San Diego federal court ruled Thursday that a giant cross that has stood atop a Southern California mountain for decades is unconstitutional and must be removed.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ordered the 43-foot Latin cross, erected on San Diego’s Mount Soledad in 1954 to honor Korean War veterans, to come down within 90 days, according to NBC San Diego.

However, he immediately stayed his ruling in anticipation that it would be appealed.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Jewish Veterans of the United States of American as well as several local residents, has been fighting for the cross’s removal since 2006.

“We support the government paying tribute to those who served bravely in our country’s armed forces,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, in a press release Thursday, according to the NBC affiliate. “But we should honor all of our heroes under one flag, not just one particular religious symbol.”

“A national war memorial should stand for all of those who served,” said Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, in a press release. “It is inappropriate and unconstitutional to declare a deeply religious symbol that excludes those outside of that faith as a monument to all veterans.”

Although the ruling disappointed Bruce Bailey, president of the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association, he told Fox News that “we are grateful for the judge’s stay that gives us an opportunity to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court.”

Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the Liberty Institute, told Fox News in a statement that it pledges to “fight for this memorial and the selfless sacrifice and service of all the millions of veterans it represents; it is the least we can do for those who gave so much to us all.”

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