The City Council has settled a long-running suit brought against them by an atheist activist over the Mount Soledad Cross in La Jolla.

The council authorized in closed session total payment of $760,000 in the case.

Last May, a federal judge ordered the city to pay more than $900,000 in legal fees to attorney James McElroy, who has led the charge against the cross residing on public land, saying it represents unconstitutional aid to a religious belief.

The activist who originally brought the case, Philip Paulson, died of cancer in October. McElroy said after the city was ordered to pay his fees last year, it appealed the case. During the course of that appeal, the two parties entered mediation and discussed terms for a possible settlement.

The $760,000 represents a compromise agreed between McElroy and the city, and the city will be dropping its appeal on the case.

McElroy pointed out that he offered two years ago to forgo all his legal fees if the city agreed to move the cross to a church less than a mile from the cross’ current resting place.

“I wish we hadn’t gone through all of this,” he said.

However, McElroy said he’s happy to see the end of this case.

“I’m very pleased that we’ve closed that chapter and I look forward to resolving the next chapter,” McElroy said.

The federal government took ownership of the Mount Soledad Cross in August 2006 after Congress passed a bill that transferred ownership of the land upon which the cross sits to the Department of Defense. That no longer made it a city of San Diego issue.

McElroy is now fighting a case against the federal government in federal court.

WILL CARLESS

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