The 43-foot high San Diego cross is surrounded by walls displaying granite plaques that commemorate veterans or veterans groups. Located between the Pacific Ocean and an interstate highway, it can be seen for miles.
Easter services were held annually at the cross from 1954 until at least 2000, according to court documents.
The cross has been the subject of litigation since 1989 when two veterans sued San Diego in an effort to get it off city land. In 2006, Congress intervened in the dispute, resulting in the federal government taking ownership of the property.
A group of plaintiffs, including the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, then sued. A U.S. appeals court ruled for the plaintiffs that the dominance of the cross in the memorial conveyed a message of government endorsement of religion.
The Obama administration and a group called the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, which erected the cross, supported by 20 states and various veterans groups, appealed to the Supreme Court in arguing the cross should be allowed as part of the memorial.
The Supreme Court stayed out of the dispute, issuing a brief order that denied the appeals by the administration and the association without comment.