Legal Battle Brews Over Separation of Church/State in LA County

A lawsuit was filed in federal court to try and get LA County to back off on adding cross onto county seal

In the latest battle over the separation of church and state, the ACLU of Southern California has filed a lawsuit challenging a decision by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to restore a cross to the county's official seal.

In the lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court, the ACLU claims adding the religious symbol violates the constitutional guarantee of the separation of church and state.

Supervisors voted 3-2 last month to put a cross atop the seal's depiction of historic San Gabriel Mission.

“Supervisors Antonovich and Knabe have attempted to get around our constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state by claiming that the cross is a symbol of history, not religion,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel of the ACLU SoCal. “But Mr. Antonovich and Mr. Knabe are historians in the same way SNL’s Father Guido Sarducci is a priest. These supervisors have exacerbated the constitutional slap at all religions by reinserting a Christian cross on the seal by means of a Pinocchio-style fib.”

The original seal had a cross over the Hollywood Bowl, but it was removed when the seal was redesigned in 2004 after the ACLU threatened legal action.

The latest redesigned seal went into effect on Friday.

Knabe said in a statement that he was disappointed over what he called a “frivolous” lawsuit.

“Our motion to add the cross to the County seal was in the name of historical correctness, not political correctness,” Knabe said.

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