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California Judge Rules to Remove Cross From San Diego Mountaintop in Case of Separation of Church and State

By Maxine Wally | Dec 13, 2013 12:00 PM EST

Cross Church and State Mount Soledad San Diego
The United States flag flies in the wind next to the 29 foot high cross atop Mount Soledad during a rally by members of Liberty Group and the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association in La Jolla, California February 9, 2012. (Photo : Reuters)

A California judge ruled this week to remove a 43-foot cross from the top of a mountain where it has stood for years.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ordered for the cross's extraction from Mt. Soledad in San Diego, Calif. on Thursday due to a violation of separation of church and state, CNN reported.

Burns said that the cross, which has been at the center of a lengthy legal battle, must be taken down in the next 3 months. Representatives from the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association told CNN they plan to appeal the ruling.

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"Of course, we are disappointed in what the ruling is - that is, to take the cross down," president of the Association Bruce Bailey told CNN affiliate station KGTV.

If the Association files an order for the court to reexamine the case, the cross will remain standing, drawing out the decades-long fight even further.

The cross was first put on top of Mt. Soledad in 1954 to commemorate Korean War veterans. But two Vietnam vets filed a lawsuit in 1989 stating that the cross was in direct violation of the "No Preference" clause in the California Constitution.

San Diego attempted to sell off the land under the cross to the Association, but the courts wouldn't allow it. In 2004, the two sides reached an agreement to transport the cross to a religious institution nearby, but that action was stopped by two members of Congress.

The federal government gained ownership of the land in 2006, after three congressmen insisted the state seize the property, CNN reported. 

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