PIERRE, S.D (KELO-AM) – South Dakota Attorney General Marty J. Jackley announces that South Dakota has joined with 18 other State Attorneys General as amicus curiae, or friend of the court, requesting that the United States Supreme Court determine that the use of a cross to memorialize veterans does not violate the First Amendment. “One of my primary responsibilities as Attorney General is to protect state and individual rights. The joining State Attorneys General are requesting our United States Supreme Court to recognize and respect the dedication, sacrifice, and freedoms earned by our veterans,” stated Attorney General Jackley.
For nearly 60 years, a 29-foot Latin cross has stood atop Mount Soledad in California. As emphasized by the State Attorneys General in their brief, “Crosses, both large and small, have been used for more than a century to honor the distinguished service and memorialize the sacrifice of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. From the single Argonne Cross in Arlington National Cemetery to the thousands of modest white crosses that stand, row by row, to mark the graves at locations such as Flanders Field, Lorraine and Normandy, these crosses provide a fitting final tribute to Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our Nation.” The Attorneys General brief further recognized that “In that solemn tradition, the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial containing the present cross was dedicated on April 18, 1954, as a lasting memorial to the dead of the First and Second World Wars and the Korean conflict.”
Congress has also recognized that “the secular purpose of the Memorial: The patriotic and inspirational symbolism of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial provides solace to the families and comrades of the veterans it memorializes.” Despite this history and individual rights, the Ninth Circuit federal appellate court has held that the Memorial violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
In addition to requesting the United States Supreme Court to grant certiorari and determine that the use of a cross to memorialize veterans does not violate the First Amendment, the State Attorneys General are requesting the Supreme Court to provide a clearer, workable First Amendment test for lower federal courts in order to avoid the potential of all states having to enter into costly litigation to preserve such fundamental and basic rights for our veterans.