Court: Lake Elsinore War Memorial Advances Religion

The proposed Lake Elsinore war memorial — which was to portray the iconic silhouette of a soldier kneeling at a cross-shaped headstone — was declared unconstitutional by US District Judge Stephen Wilson:

On Thursday (Feb. 27), U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson of California’s Central District ruled that a granite monument depicting a soldier kneeling in prayer before a cross lacked “a secular purpose” and has “the unconstitutional effect” of endorsing religion over nonreligion.

For those that can’t seem to remember, the US Constitution says this about religion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

Is such a stone really Congress making a law respecting establishment? Using the Lemon Test, the Judge (PDF) said: 

1. Lake Elsinore’s Use of the Cross Lacks a Predominantly Secular Purpose

Notably, he said “use of the cross” — not the memorial itself. Of course, the cross in the context of the memorial is instantly recognizable as a headstone — a nonsectarian symbology. It apparently also escaped the Judge that there was not just a cross but also a Star of David on the memorial.

2. The Principal Effect of Lake Elsinore’s Memorial is to Advance Religion

The Judge said that despite the town’s attempt to be historical — portraying an image representative of Normandy — the cross was still Christian and, therefore, unconstitutional.

The US House passed — and the Senate ignored — a bill in 2012 that would have protected military memorials with religious imagery. It was dismissed as unnecessary.

Appears that might have been in error.

The case was American Humanist Association et al v. City of Lake Elsinore et al. The memorial was never built.