County Seal Has a Cross the ACLU Can’t Bear

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Times Staff Writer

The American Civil Liberties Union wants to take religion out of the Los Angeles County seal.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich, thinks the ACLU has too much time on its hands.

At issue is the seal designed by the late Supervisor Kenneth Hahn that contains a tiny cross symbolic of the Catholic missions that are so much a part of the county’s history.

In a letter to the supervisors, ACLU Executive Director Ramona Ripston says the cross is unconstitutional and has given them two weeks to act.


Antonovich responded with an irate letter that accused her of trying to rewrite history.

“Rewriting our historical roots is, to use an analogy, like eating a sandwich wrapped in a paper bag -- it loses its taste,” Antonovich wrote.

The genesis of the spat began with a controversy about the city seal of Redlands, which contained a cross. Last February, two Redlands residents complained to the ACLU that the cross was a religious symbol. ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner wrote to the city that the U.S. Supreme Court had declared such symbols on government logos and seals unconstitutional.

Redlands capitulated when faced with a lawsuit and ordered the cross removed from every city logo.

The ACLU then got calls that pointed out that the Los Angeles County seal also contained a cross.

“Therefore, we said we would sue them in 14 days, but if they agree to remove the cross we would give them more time,” Ripston said.

In her letter to the supervisors, Ripston said that a 1957 letter to the California secretary of state describing the new seal clearly stated that the cross represented religion. But Antonovich said the cross was all about history.


“The cross on our county seal reflects these historical facts,” he said. “It does not mean that we are all Roman Catholic or that everyone who resides in our county is a Christian -- it only reflects our historical roots.”