By Philip Thalheimer
When the City Council unwisely voted 5-3 to decline the offer of the federal government to turn the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial into a national monument protected under the Constitution of the United States, the people of San Diego decided enough was enough. In just four short weeks, the voters of this great citypeople from all walks of life, political backgrounds and religious beliefssuccessfully concluded the largest, most successful referendum petition drive in San Diego history by collecting a record 73,000 certifiable signatures. The City Council could not ignore the established will of the people, and on May 17 chose to let the future of the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial rest with the voters by placing the issue on the upcoming mayoral ballot.
Now, it is up to the people of San Diego to keep Mount Soledad as it is, where it is by voting YES on Proposition A. Transferring the property to the federal government is the only way to protect this historic monument so future generations can honor those who have answered the call to liberty and sacrificed to preserve our freedom. Under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial will enjoy the level of constitutional protection necessary to operate intactwithout the expense of further litigation to our local taxpayers.
The recent Supreme Court rulings on the displays of the Ten Commandments in Kentucky and Texas establish a clear legal precedent for keeping Mount Soledad as it is, where it is. It should also be noted that the Supreme Court has never ruled a federally owned war memorial violated the constitution, or indeed ordered one dismantled or destroyed. Many of these sites also employ faith emblems like those on display at Mount Soledad.
Would the intolerant few who seek to dismantle this sacred monument also demand the removal of the faith emblems from the headstones at Fort Rosecrans, or the crosses at Arlington? For that matter, would they ask this city to support the removal of the Buddha or Sun God statues from the campus of UCSD, the missions and synagogues from public land in Balboa Park, or the Japanese friendship garden temple bell from Shelter Island? We hope not; that would be far too reminiscent of Taliban rule.
San Diegans are proud to host the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial as a symbol of our great heritage. What an even greater honor it would be to host a national war memorial right here in our own hometown. National Park Service oversight will guarantee federal support for improvements and maintenance, while the general caretaker responsibilities will still fall under the purview the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, just as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Association operates the Wall in Washington.
Make no mistake: to remove the Mount Soledad cross is to destroy the memorial. We must never allow the demands of an intolerant few to supersede the steadfast will of the overwhelming majority. One can only imagine the sheer multitude of frivolous lawsuits our nation will face should we lose this critical battle to preserve our heritage. An ACLU attorney has repeatedly sued the campaign to save Mount Soledad in a vicious effort to undermine the July 26 special election. Fortunately, upon transfer to the federal government, the burden for defending the memorial in court will rest with the Department of Justice, acting under the wide-ranging protections offered by the Constitution of the United States.
On July 26th, the people of this great city will have the opportunity to save the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial once and for allas it is, where it isby voting YES on Proposition A.
Phil Thalheimer is the Chairman of San Diegans for the Mount Soledad National War Memorial, and the President of San Diego Flight Training International.