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County seal cross: ACLU, L.A. Times get it wrong, readers say

County seal cross: ACLU, L.A. Times get it wrong, readers say
Citing concerns over portraying the San Gabriel Mission accurately, supervisors voted last month to restore the Latin cross to L.A. County's official seal. Above, the cross atop the mission's church building in 2009. (Los Angeles Times)

The Board of Supervisors' vote last month to restore a Christian cross to L.A. County's official seal prompted the ACLU on Thursday to file a lawsuit -- and dozens of readers to fire off letters to The Times, many of them saying the civil liberties organization should let this one go.

Three letters -- two for the cross, one against -- were published in Sunday's paper reacting to our editorial Friday critical of the supervisors for dragging the county into an inevitable and costly legal battle. Since those letters were edited for publication last week, many more were sent, most of which were sharply critical of the ACLU and The Times.

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Of course, there were a few readers who took the editorial board's side (one of those letters is below). But the clear majority bought the supervisors' argument that restoring the cross was legally defensible on the grounds that the seal ought to accurately depict the San Gabriel Mission, which now has the Christian symbol perched atop its church building. Some dismissed the ACLU's complaint as frivolous.

Here are some of those letters.

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Calabasas City Councilman James R. Bozajia says this is about history and accuracy, not religion:

"The Times' analysis is deeply flawed. Had the supervisors simply voted to add a religious symbol to the seal, they would likely be found to violate the U.S. Constitution's proscription against the promotion of religion.

"But that didn't happen here. Instead, the board voted to accurately depict a rendering of a California mission (cross included) on its seal. The placement of historically significant structures on government insignia -- and there can be no serious argument but that the early Spanish missions fall squarely within this category -- has long been upheld as constitutionally permissible.

"The Times' concern about legal fees associated with defending the supervisors is disingenuous. Threats of frivolous lawsuits should never deter elected officials from making appropriate decisions."

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Redondo Beach resident Jean Mirassou calls the ACLU's lawsuit "anti-heritage":

"Not every cross is a Latin cross. The cross used by the Red Cross signifies hope and help. The cross on a tombstone signifies love and caring.

"The cross on our county seal celebrates our Judeo-Christian heritage, the underpinning of our Constitution, the guarantor of our freedoms. That heritage differs us from the world. It's the soul of our country, needing constant relearning by citizens and new learning by immigrants.

"Such traditions should be the sensational grist of celebrations, not anti-heritage ACLU lawsuits."

Ged Kenslea of North Hollywood finds more targets for the ACLU:

"While I am often simpatico with the ACLU, the cross conundrum seems small when they clearly have bigger fish, or loaves, to fry.
"ACLU: Why not go after and demand change from California cities named after the Roman Catholic saints Anselm, Barbara, Clare, Diego, Francis and Joseph? Or even the big kahuna, Los Angeles?"

Gary Rosenberg of San Diego explains what a publicly displayed cross says to him:

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"I grew up in the San Fernando Valley and drove to work past the Hollywood Hills. The ever-present cross on the top of the mountain was an indelible stamp on me. It said to me: 'You are an outsider. You are a Jew. You may live in our Christian country, but don't forget this message.'

"For anyone with a modicum of honesty to say that the cross is not a religious symbol is difficult to fathom. I respect the cross as a Christian symbol and personally believe in coexistence.

"The supervisors seriously erred. This wrong they committed regarding the restoration of the cross to the seal must be undone."

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