November 21, 2018

Federal judge rules small cross on L.A. County seal is unconstitutional

A federal judge on Thursday ruled that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors violated the First Amendment when it decided in 2014 to reinstate a tiny cross to the county's seal.

U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder said in a 55-page ruling that the Board of Supervisors, by depicting a cross on the seal, “Necessarily lends its prestige and approval to a depiction of one faith's sectarian imagery.”

The American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) Southern California office sued the Board of Supervisors following its 3-2 decision in 2014 to place a cross on top of the depiction of the San Gabriel Mission on the seal. Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Mike Knabe, both Republicans, argued at the time that having a cross on the seal is historically accurate. They were joind by Mark Ridley-Thomas, a Democrat, and opposed by Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina, both Democrats.

This is just the latest development in a sort of saga that has been ongoing since 2004, when the Board of Supervisors was threatened with a similar lawsuit and voted 3-2 to remove a depiction of the cross floating above the Hollywood Bowl that had been there since 1957.

On Thursday, Antonovich released a statement saying that depicting the San Gabriel Mission without its cross “ignores historical and architectural reality,” and said he would support an appeal.

“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,” Antonovich said.