The ball is back in the court of the liberal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The land beneath the cross on Mount Soledad in San Diego has been purchased by a private nonprofit group for $1.4 million, a key step toward possibly ending a more than two-decade legal controversy over having a cross on public property.
The Mount Soledad Memorial Association announced Monday that it had purchased the half-acre of property from the U.S. Department of Defense.
A provision in the defense authorization bill passed in December called for the federal government to sell the land beneath the cross to the memorial association, which has pledged to retain the cross as part of a war memorial.
The 43-foot cross was erected in 1954. More than 3,000 plaques honoring veterans are on walls surrounding the cross. The memorial association has long tended the cross and surrounding property, holding Memorial Day and Veterans Day events there.
Since the late 1980s, litigants, including the ACLU and Jewish War Veterans, have argued that the cross violates the constitutional separation of church and state. In 2006, the land was transferred from city ownership to the federal government.
The case is now with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in a previous ruling ordered the cross removed, although it remains unclear what effect the sale of the property by the Department of Defense will have. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the case.