Congressmen Duncan Hunter and Brian Bilbray Send Letter to Attorney General Holder expressing "frustration" about secret settlement negotiations that excluded veterans group
SAN DIEGO, CA, July 19, 2012-Yesterday, Liberty Institute and Congressmen Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) were surprised to discover that the U.S. Department of Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union engaged in secret settlement discussions and jointly filed a request to postpone a scheduled hearing that would determine the fate of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross. The Congressmen sent a letter to Attorney General Holder expressing "frustration" that this "latest development in the case involving the Mt. Soledad Veterans memorial raises serious concerns about the future of the Memorial."
Liberty Institute, representing the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association (MSMA)-a veterans group that erected the memorial in 1955 to honor veterans of the Korean War and a key defendant in this landmark religious liberty case-filed an objection to the DOJ/ACLU joint motion. The letter from the Congressmen expressed concern that settlement negotiations for the memorial were proceeding without the MSMA.
"We, like the Congressmen, are troubled by the veterans being left out of the recent secret negotiations," said Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford. "However, we are hopeful the Court will put a stop to this back-room dealing so that our client, the MSMA, can continue fighting to preserve this longstanding veterans memorial that honors the selfless sacrifice and service of our veterans."
Congressmen Hunter and Bilbray warned Attorney General Holder in their letter that if the DOJ did not include the MSMA in all negotiations with the ACLU, that it would be their "recommendation that independent counsel be appointed to ensure the Memorial is rightly defended in accordance with Public Law 109-272."
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily refused to review the case Mt. Soledad Memorial Association v. Steve Trunk, et al and United States of America, et al. v. Steve Trunk et al. However, Justice Alito wrote an encouraging statement that the appeal may be premature and the court may reconsider this case after the district court issues a final order determining the fate of the memorial.
In April, U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 290, the War Memorial Protection Act, legislation introduced by Rep. Hunter and supported by Rep. Bilbray. The War Memorial Protection Act, which allows for the inclusion of religious symbols on war memorials, was in response to the ruling by the Ninth Circuit, declaring San Diego's Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial unconstitutional. Before passage, the bill requires Senate approval and the president's signature.
The Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross has stood since 1954 as a symbol of the selfless sacrifice and service of our nation's veterans. The memorial cross is surrounded by six concentric walls with the photos, names and diverse religious symbols of members of our military who have honorably served their country.
This Cross is just one of many veterans memorials across the country under assault by the ACLU, atheist groups and their supporters. In 2009, Liberty Institute successfully represented the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) of the United States, The American Legion, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, VFW Department of California, American Ex-Prisoners of War, VFW Post 385, and retired Lt. Col. Allen R. Miliefsky, United States Air Force as amici at the Supreme Court to help save the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross, a World War I memorial in the Mojave National Preserve in California.
About Liberty InstituteLiberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America - in our schools, for our churches and throughout the public arena. Liberty's vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation's Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.
Sean P Eagan
Former Chairman American Cold War Veterans