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A Christian Cross Doesn't Belong On The L.A. County Seal, Judge Says

Current seal of L.A. County. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
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A federal judge has ruled that the placement of a Christian cross on the seal of L.A. County is unconstitutional, bringing to a close a long-standing debate, at least for now. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder ruled that L.A. County supervisors could not add a cross to the top of the depiction of the San Gabriel Mission on the county's seal, reports the L.A. Times. The ruling reverses the a divided board's 2014 vote to reinstate the symbol among the seal's other historical imagery. Following that decision the board was promptly sued by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, along with a group of religious scholars and leaders who claimed the cross unconstitutionally favors Christianity over other religions.

Judge Snyder explained her decision in the 55-page ruling, saying that the cross "carries with it an aura of prestige, authority, and approval. By singling out the cross for addition to the seal, the county necessarily lends its prestige and approval to a depiction of one faith’s sectarian imagery."

She went on to write:

The county also provides a platform for broadcasting that imagery on county buildings, vehicles, flags, and stationary.… Permitting such a change and the associated expenditure of public funds 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.

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Seal of the County of Los Angeles, Adopted March 1, 1957
This, however, wasn't the first time that a cross on the county seal has been the focus of attention. Astute observers may recall that from 1957 to 2004, the seal featured a cross above an image of the Hollywood Bowl, based on the real-life, hilltop one above the amphitheater, both of which share an interesting history.Following the threat of a similar lawsuit from the ACLU, the cross had been removed, and the San Gabriel Mission took its place. The mission at the time had no cross as the real one had gone missing during earthquake retrofitting, but after it was restored Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich and Don Knabe, with support from Mark Ridley-Thomas, pushed forward their long-standing argument to have a cross returned to the seal.

“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," attorney Linda M. Burrow and Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, said in a statement to the Times.

We have to say, though, we're fans of this charming seal that was submitted to the California Secretary of State in 1887:


Seal of the County of Los Angeles, Submitted December 9, 1887