CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, January 24, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider, H.R. 290, the War Memorial Protection Act, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-third majority vote for approval. The bill was introduced on January 12, 2011, by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and referred to the committee on Natural Resources, which held a mark up and reported the bill by unanimous consent on May 5, 2011.
H.R. 290 would authorize the inclusion of religious symbols as part of military monuments that are established or acquired by the U.S. government or military memorials established in cooperation with the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC). The bill would specifically state that in order to recognize the religious background of members of the United States Armed Forces, religious symbols may be included as part of a memorial or monument commemorating the service of the United States Armed Forces.
According to House Report 112-156, H.R. 290 is intended to help resolve the legal situation involving the cross at the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial. The bill was introduced shortly after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found the Mt. Soledad Cross in La Jolla, California, violated the Constitution because it displayed a religious preference and was not solely a war memorial. In 1989, the City of San Diego was first sued over the 43-foot cross which was first placed on Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, California, in 1913. According to the Committee on Natural resources, the plaintiffs in the suit claimed a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution which bars the State or local government from using funds to assist religious sects or churches, or from showing preference to one religion over another.
Since the lawsuit was initially filed, several remedies were attempted to avoid having the cross removed by order of the courts, including transferring the property to a non-profit—for which San Diego was sued for showing a preference—and the federal government taking the land by eminent domain. Indeed, the Department of Defense took possession of the property in 2006. Subsequently, the federal government was sued and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the cross unconstitutional in January 2011.
According to CBO, there would be no costs associated with implementing H.R. 290.