9/11 firefighters, veterans urge Supreme Court to hear Mt. Soledad memorial case

ADF files brief on behalf of retired NYC firefighters, Calif. Legionnaires
Tuesday, March 13, 2012

ADF attorney sound bite:  Joseph Infranco

WASHINGTON — The Alliance Defense Fund filed a friend-of-the-court brief Tuesday that urges the U.S. Supreme Court to agree to review a lower court’s decision that declared the Mt. Soledad Veterans’ Memorial cross in San Diego, Calif., unconstitutional.

ADF attorneys filed the brief on behalf of the United Retired Firefighters Association, which represents retired New York City firefighters--including 9/11 first-responders--and the American Legion Department of California, which represents military veterans. Both organizations wish to protect memorials to America’s fallen heroes and argue that a person or group merely offended by a cross included in such a memorial does not have legal standing to attack it in court.

“Public monuments to honor those who gave their lives in service to our nation should not be torn apart based on the subjective ‘offense’ of a litigious few,” said ADF Senior Counsel Joseph Infranco. “Allowing that to happen places the future of these beloved memorials into the hands of activists whose sole concern is furthering a divisive, political agenda, no matter the cost.”

The ADF brief argues that the Supreme Court should accept review of the case, Trunk v. City of San Diego, and reaffirm existing precedent that only those with a “direct stake” in the outcome of a dispute can bring it into court.

“Offended observers have no such direct stake and the psychological harm to which they lay claim pales in comparison to that caused by the demolition of public memorials dedicated to those who gave their last full measure of devotion to our nation,” the brief states.

For many years, the American Civil Liberties Union and others have sought to have the Mt. Soledad Veterans’ Memorial cross torn down on behalf of individuals and groups who claim to be offended by the memorial’s cross.

In 2010, the Supreme Court concluded that another veterans’ memorial, a cross standing in California’s Mojave Desert, did not have to be removed: “The goal of avoiding governmental endorsement does not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm…. The Constitution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion’s role in society,” the high court wrote.

URFA represents more than 16,000 retired New York City firefighters in 24 divisions located throughout the country. Representing thousands of former 9/11 first-responders, URFA seeks to honor the sacrifices firefighters have made. It has a unique interest in protecting monuments like the National September 11 Memorial, which houses the World Trade Center cross. Last year, American Atheists filed suit to remove that cross, which could also be affected by the outcome of the Mt. Soledad case.

The American Legion Department of California, a tireless advocate for veterans rights, represents some 130,000 Legionnaires throughout California. The Department of California and ADF have established the Defense of Veterans Memorials Project to defend veterans memorials throughout California, including Mt. Soledad.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.