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Published On: Fri, Apr 8th, 2016

Judge rules to strip cross from LA County seal

A move counterintuitive to the foundation of Los Angeles, a California federal judge has ruled with plaintiffs who argued it was unconstitutional for Los Angeles County supervisors to place a Christian cross on the county seal.

A divided Board of Supervisors voted in 2014 to reinstate the cross on top of a depiction of the San Gabriel Mission (which was present in 1957) and appears on the seal among other symbols of county history. They were sued by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and a group of religious leaders and scholars, who said placement of the cross on the seal unconstitutionally favored Christianity over other religions.

U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder issued her 55-page ruling Thursday, saying the cross “carries with it an aura of prestige, authority, and approval. By singling out the cross for addition to the seal, the county necessarily lends its prestige and approval to a depiction of one faith’s sectarian imagery.”

In a motion introduced by Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe, the board voted 3-2 in 2014 to add a cross to the top of the San Gabriel  Mission on the county emblem, which is displayed on buildings, vehicles and  official communications. Antonovich and Knabe argued that restoring the cross is vital to the  historical accuracy of the seal.

Linda M. Burrow, a partner at the law firm of Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, and  Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California said the organization is pleased with the ruling

“We are heartened by the court’s ruling because it recognizes that Los Angeles is a diverse county comprised of adherents of hundreds of faiths as well as non-believers, all of whom are entitled to be treated with equal dignity by their government,” they said in a statement. “The placement of the cross on the official county seal promotes one religious sect above others and denies the principle that government represents all of the people, not just those who follow a particular faith.”

Antonovich issued a statement Thursday, saying the ruling “ignores historical and architectural reality.”

“The court failed to see that the Board corrected the inaccurate depiction of the San Gabriel Mission on the seal with an architecturally accurate version that featured a small cross — which of course the mission has,” Antonovich said. “As any California fourth-grade student knows, the San Gabriel Mission is an important icon to the region and the birthplace of Los Angeles County.”

The supervisor said he would support an appeal.

County of Los Angeles seals cross to be removed

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About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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