Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Supervisors Vote Not to Appeal Injunction Against Cross on L.A. County Seal
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors yesterday voted 3-2 not to appeal a permanent injunction barring the county from including a cross on the county seal.
Following a closed-door discussion, Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Don Knabe voted to appeal, while Hilda Solis, Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Sheila Kuehl voted against.
Antonovich criticized the decision following the vote.
“Once again, the ACLU was successful in bullying their way to rewrite history,” he said in a statement. “This action was wrong — we ought to have appealed the decision. The U.S. Supreme Court would have ruled in support of it as they have ruled in previous cases. The historical facts are reflective in our educational program — the building of the missions is part of the fourth grade curriculum in the state’s education code. The history of Los Angeles County began with the founding of the San Gabriel Mission which led to the founding of the Pueblo in Los Angeles and the beginning of the city of Los Angeles — the first city incorporated after the County was incorporated in 1850. Again, this was an attempt to rewrite history by eliminating religion references from our history and culture — a hateful form of religious bigotry.”
Efforts to reach the other supervisors for comment late yesterday were unsuccessful.
In this graphic, the 1957 Los Angeles county seal, the 2004 county seal, and the 2014 county seal are shown.
The ACLU of Southern California said in a statement:
“The ill-conceived and misguided effort to alter the county seal and favor Christianity over all other faiths has cost taxpayers at least $1 million. Today’s action guarantees that the taxpayers will not be forced to suffer further.”
U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder of the Central District of California granted the injunction in April, ruling that the cross constituted an endorsement of religion in violation of the state and federal constitutions.
The county had argued that the cross was placed on the current seal for historic and artistic reasons, and not as an endorsement of Christianity. But Snyder found the argument unavailing, citing the history of the last three seals, beginning with that adopted in 1957.
That seal depicted the Hollywood Bowl, with an unadorned Latin cross in the sky above it. But after the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue in 2004, a new seal, depicting San Gabriel Mission without a cross above it, was adopted.
By that time, the mission’s historic cross was missing from the building, having been taken down during the course of earthquake retrofitting and subsequently stolen.
Two years ago, however, the Board of Supervisors approved what Antonovich referred to as a “historic correction,” restoring a version of the cross above the depiction of the mission.
Then-Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who had voted for the 2004 change, opposed the restoration of the cross, saying it would place a burden on the county “to defend the principal symbol of a religion on our seal.” He said it was disingenuous to say the argument was “just about history,” when it was really “about the cross.”
The new seal was approved by a 3-2 vote, and was challenged by a group of plaintiffs, backed by the ACLU, that included clergy of various faiths.
Snyder rejected the argument that the restoration of the cross—the only change made to the 2004 seal—had a primarily secular purpose.
Noting the chief executive officer’s estimate that adoption of a new seal would cost the county $800,000, the jurist said a reasonable observer “would likely view the County’s recent decision to reintroduce a cross at substantial expense as motivated by a sectarian purpose.”
The inclusion of the cross also violated the “no-preference” and “no-aid” clauses of the California Constitution, the judge said.
Art. I, §4 of the state Constitution says that all are entitled to the“[f]ree exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference.” Art. XVI, §5 says, in part, that “[n]either the Legislature, nor any county . . . shall ever make an appropriation, or pay from any public fund whatever, or grant anything to or in aid of any religious sect, church, creed, or sectarian purpose.”
The no-preference clause, the judge said, is coterminous with the Establishment Clause, but the no-aid clause goes further, prohibiting the county from granting a sectarian benefit, even if it has a secular purpose.
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company