Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Vasquez v. Los Angeles County (9th Cir. - May 15, 2007)

Seems right to me.

Los Angeles County redesigns its county seal to update it (e.g., to remove oil derricks) and, to (inter alia) avoid potential litigation, removes a cross symbol. Ernesto Vasquez sues, claiming that the redesign violates the Establishment Clause because it "convey[s] a state-sponsored message of hostility towards Christians."

Judge Clifton concludes that Vasquez has standing to sue (which isn't crystal clear, but I agree), that the case isn't moot just because the redesign also included an allegedly "Christian" picture of the Mission San Gabriel (which seems totally right), and that, on the merits, Vasquez loses (yep). It doesn't constitute a violation of the Establishment Clause to remove a cross from your state symbol. That's simply not a "state-sponsored message of hostility" towards a particular religion.