Los Angeles News

Vote to restore cross to LA County seal prompts ACLU lawsuit

Thursday, February 06, 2014

A proposed change to the county seal of Los Angeles is heading to federal court. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit Thursday against the L.A. County Board of Supervisors after they voted to place a small cross on the seal.

The official seal of Los Angeles County features an image of the San Gabriel Mission. Last month, the Board Of Supervisors voted to add a cross to the top of the mission on the seal. But the ACLU says that's unconstitutional.

"Government may not favor or endorse one religion over another," Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel of the ACLU of Southern California, said Thursday.

At a Thursday news conference, the ACLU of Southern California and a group of local religious leaders outlined their reasons for filing a federal lawsuit challenging the board's decision to place the cross on the county's official seal.

"This is a pro-religion case," said Rosenbaum. "It is about the equality of religion. And that all religions are in fact created equal and must be respected equally by government."

County supervisors who supported the change say they are merely trying to provide an accurate depiction of the San Gabriel Mission, considered by many to be the birthplace of L.A. County.

"The board took an action that's going to make our county seal accurate," said Tony Bell, spokesman for County Supervisor Mike Antonovich.

Antonovich voted to make the change, along with supervisors Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas.

"It's a small amendment to the county seal that should cost very, very little, but it makes it accurate," said Bell.

The county's original seal, created in 1957, featured a cross floating over a depiction of the Hollywood Bowl. That cross was removed in 2004 and replaced with an illustration of the Mission, which at the time did not have a cross, because it had been stolen. The cross has since been returned.

"If you go there today, you will see that there's a cross on top of the mission," said Bell. "We can't change that, no matter how badly they want to."

The ACLU lawsuit filed Thursday asks the courts to block the county from placing the redesigned seal on its buildings, vehicles and stationery.

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