A civil rights group today sued the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, challenging the recent decision to restore a cross to the county's seal.
The complaint filed in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California contends that restoring the cross was unconstitutional because it “favors the Christian religion over all other religions and divides County residents by religion and by adherence or non-adherence to religious beliefs.”
In a motion introduced by Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe, the board voted 3-2 last month to add a cross to the top of the San Gabriel Mission in its depiction 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.
Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel of the ACLU/SoCal, responded that the two supervisors “are historians in the same way SNL's Father Guido Sarducci is a priest. These supervisors have exacerbated the constitutional slap at all religions by reinserting a Christian cross on the seal by means of a Pinocchio-style fib.”
Knabe called the lawsuit “frivolous”' and said the motion to “update” the seal “was in the name of historical correctness, not political correctness.”
“While the ACLU has chosen to engage in this issue, today I am up in Sacramento working with a bipartisan group of elected officials to protect our most vulnerable, the young victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking,” the supervisor said.
But the ACLU contends in the suit that historical accuracy “does not trump the Constitution.”
“In choosing to place a symbol of Christianity on the official seal, which appears on county vehicles, meeting rooms and elsewhere, the supervisors have chosen to violate the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause that guarantees the separation of church and state,” according to the ACLU.
“By elevating the symbol of one faith over all others, the supervisors fail to protect the rights of all religions,” Rosenbaum said. “That's simply un-American.”
--City News Service