Los Angeles County Seal's Tiny Cross Ruled Unconstitutional

Christine Rousselle
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Posted: Apr 08, 2016 5:00 PM
Los Angeles County Seal's Tiny Cross Ruled Unconstitutional

A judge has ruled that the tiny cross on top of the San Gabriel Mission, pictured in the official seal of Los Angeles County, is unconstitutional. The San Gabriel Mission is one of the oldest buildings in Los Angeles County.

A decade earlier, the county had removed a cross from the seal — this one shown floating above the Hollywood Bowl — after being threatened with a similar lawsuit. The proponents of reinstating the cross on the seal argued it was needed to make the image of the mission historically and architecturally accurate. When the seal was redesigned in 2004, there was no cross on top of the mission, as it had gone missing during earthquake retrofitting. The cross was later restored atop the building.

In a 55-page ruling released Thursday, U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder wrote that the addition of 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.

“The county also provides a platform for broadcasting that imagery on county buildings, vehicles, flags, and stationary.… Permitting such a change and the associated expenditure of public funds places the county’s power, prestige, and purse behind a single religion, Christianity, without making any such benefit available on an equal basis to those with secular objectives or alternative sectarian views."

This is absurd. The building in question is an important part of the history of Los Angeles, and it has a cross on it. This is not the government endorsing one religion over another. If the first building built in the county were a mosque, synagogue, or whatever, that would be reflected as such in the seal. It's historical accuracy, not saying one religion is better than another.