Judge Dismisses Suit Against Decision to Replace L.A.County Seal as 'Moot'

( [email protected] ) Oct 22, 2004 06:02 PM EDT

A federal district judge ruled Thursday that there was no hostility toward Christians in the L.A. County Board’s decision to replace the county seal’s cross image and dismissed the suit as moot.

The cross on the seal has been replaced with a Christian church and the pagan goddess Pamona has been replaced with a Native American woman.

U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero said in his ruling, “[T]he Christian cross has been supplanted with a visual representation of a Christian church. In view of this fact, this case is moot and must be dismissed.”

A few months ago, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to remove the cross symbol from the seal after American Civil Liberties Union said the image represented a government endorsement of religion and threatened to sue. Although a crowd of residents protested against the cross’ removal, the Board refused to budge from their decision.

The Ann Arbor-based Thomas Law Center later filed a request to place an injunction on replacing the seal on behalf of county employee Mr. Ernesto Vasquez who disagreed with the Board’s decision. While the case was still pending, the Board voted to adopt a new design for the seal.

Robert Muise, the Law Center attorney representing Vasquez, said the judge did not address the issue at hand.

“The court took the easy route by dismissing the case as moot and dodged the most critical issue presented: whether the Constitution permits the government from removing historical and cultural symbols from the public square simply because they are Christian,” he stated.

“The overwhelming protest by the people of Los Angeles County clearly demonstrates that the County’s decision to remove the cross conveyed an impermissible message that the government disapproves of Christianity.”

The Law Center is also acting as legal counsel for the citizen petition effort to keep the original seal. Republican Nominee for the 28th Congressional District David Hernandez spearheading the petition drive.

Richard Thompson, Chief Counsel and President of the Law Center, said it is up to the people to reverse the decision.

“This decision makes the voter initiative petition drive sponsored by David Hernandez and Our First Amendment the most immediate and effective way in which the LA County citizens can return the cross to their seal. We’ve heard from the court, and now it’s time to hear from the people,” Thompson said.

In addition to the petition drive, a lawsuit was also filed in state court by the Claremont Institute alleging that the County’s decision to remove the cross was an illegal waste of taxpayer funds and violates state and federal constitutional provisions, reported the Law Center. The case is still pending.

Petitions seeking to keep the L.A. County Seal can be found at Our First Amendment Web site, www.ourfirstamendment.org.