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Judge Strikes Down Effort To Restore Cross To LA County Seal

LOS ANGELES ( — A federal judge Thursday ruled an effort by Los Angeles County to add a Christian cross over the San Gabriel Mission on the official county seal is unconstitutional.

The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU) against the Board of Supervisors in Feb. 2014 nearly 10 years after legal wrangling prompted its removal from the county seal.

U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder wrote that the return of the cross "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."

The ACLU alleged a Jan. 7, 2014, decision by the Board to restore 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", according to the complaint.

In a joint statement, Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, and plaintiffs' attorney Linda Burrow said the ruling affirms the area's diversity.

"We are heartened by the court's ruling because it recognizes that Los Angeles is a diverse county comprised of adherents of hundreds of faiths as well as non-believers, all of whom are entitled to be treated with equal
dignity by their government," they said.

"The placement of the cross on the official county seal promotes one religious sect above others and denies the principle that government represents all of the people, not just those who follow a particular faith," the statement read.

The Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 in 2014 in favor of a motion introduced by Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe to add a cross to the top of the San Gabriel Mission on the county emblem, which is displayed on buildings, vehicles and official communications.

At the time, Antonovich and Knabe argued that restoring the cross is vital to the historical accuracy of the seal.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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