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Judge says war memorial violates separation of church and state

March 4, 2014 at 2:09 PM

LAKE ELSINORE, Calif., March 4 (UPI) -- A federal judge has ruled a planned war memorial for a baseball stadium in Lake Elsinore, Calif., violates the separation of church and state.

The memorial planned for Lake Elsinore Storm's stadium in Riverside County features a soldier kneeling in prayer before a cross and the quote "Freedom Is Never Free," Courthouse News Service reported.

In 2013, the American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit against Lake Elsinore, its Mayor Robert Magee and the City Council, alleging that the memorial violated the separation of church and state.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson ruled the design violated the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause and California's Establishment and No Preference clauses.

Local officials "expressed a predominantly religious interest in keeping the cross on the memorial," Wilson wrote in his ruling. The "public comments show that for a majority of the five-person Lake Elsinore City Council, the purpose for including the cross on the memorial was to symbolize their religion and the country's status as a Christian nation. Such comments reflect an abandonment of government neutrality in adopting the cross design."

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