County seal still has a cross, com­plaint says

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Matt Hamil­ton matt.hamil­ton @la­times.com Twit­ter: @Mat­tHjourno

Lawyers for a group of re­li­gious lead­ers com­plained to a fed­eral judge Tues­day that Los An­ge­les County con­tin­ues to dis­play an of­fi­cial seal that in­cludes a Chris­tian cross, vi­o­lat­ing a legal agree­ment reached last year.

In court pa­pers, at­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing an in­ter­de­nom­i­na­tional group of Chris­tian, Jewish and Mus­lim lead­ers con­tended that of­fi­cials had agreed to halt “fur­ther im­ple­men­ta­tion” of the logo con­tain­ing a cross while a law­suit filed in Fe­bru­ary 2014 pro­ceeds.

That suit, which was filed by lawyers with the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, ar­gued that us­ing a cross on a gov­ern­ment seal vi­o­lates the state and U.S. con­sti­tu­tions be­cause it “fa­vors the Chris­tian reli­gion over all other re­li­gions.”

The dis­pute is the lat­est chap­ter in a long-run­ning tus­sle over the le­gal­ity and pro­pri­ety of the cross in a logo com­monly af­fixed to county ve­hi­cles, re­ports, of­fice signs and badges. The seal bears sev­eral draw­ings that sym­bol­ize the county’s his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural past, in­clud­ing the San Gabriel Mission.

The county promised in June 2014 to tem­po­rar­ily stop us­ing the seal con­tain­ing the cross.

But ACLU at­tor­neys said Tues­day that it con­tin­ues to ap­pear on some county doc­u­ments, web­sites and sta­tionery.

Lawyers sub­mit­ted ev­i­dence show­ing the cross on Su­per­vi­sor Michael D. Antonovich’s web­site, a cover sheet for a re­cent Board of Su­per­vi­sors meet­ing tran­script and a pro­gram for the county-or­ga­nized “Women of the Year” lun­cheon in March.

“You can’t tell a court one thing and go and do the op­po­site,” ACLU of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Peter Elias­berg said in an in­ter­view this week. “Ev­ery time they come up with a new [su­per­vi­sors meet­ing] agenda, they have a sim­ple choice: use the old seal or use the new one.”

Linda Bur­row, an­other at­tor­ney who is rep­re­sent­ing the plain­tiffs along with the ACLU, said that the con­tin­ued use of the cross casts doubt on the county’s mo­tives.

“The county’s vi­o­la­tion shows that they are not con­cerned about the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of their ac­tions,” Bur­row said.

In Tues­day’s fil­ing, lawyers for the county did not di­rectly ad­dress ac­cu­sa­tions that it had breached the agree­ment to stop us­ing the seal with a cross.

County spokesman David Som­mers in­sisted that the seal con­tain­ing a cross is used only on county ma­te­ri­als that were in place be­fore the agree­ment took ef­fect.

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