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As expected, President Bush signed legislation today immediately transferring ownership of the Mount Soledad Cross from the city of San Diego to the federal government.

Proponents of keeping the cross say transferring its ownership to the federal government will ensure any legal challenges to the religious symbol on government land will be heard by the federal courts and considered under the U.S. Constitution. Although a federal and state judge have previously found that the cross violates the state constitution, supporters hope that federal judges will be more lenient in their interpretation of federal law.

James McElroy, the attorney who represents Philip Paulson, the atheist and Vietnam veteran who has waged a 17-year battle to remove the cross, said the transfer may prolong the controversy but wont impact the final outcome.

“A cross is a religious symbol and it’s still a religious symbol and government property is still government property,” McElroy said after a hearing in federal court Friday.

Mayor Jerry Sanders is holding a related press conference at Mount Soledad at 3 p.m. Check back later for details.

DANIEL STRUMPF

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