A war memorial cross in a San Diego public park is unconstitutional because it conveys a message of government endorsement of religion, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in a two decade old case.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the unanimous decision in the dispute over the 29-foot cross, which was dedicated in 1954 in honor of Korean War veterans.

The court said modifications could be made to make it constitutional, but it didn’t specify what those changes would be.

“In no way is this decision meant to undermine the importance of honoring our veterans,” the three judges said in their ruling. “Indeed, there are countless ways that we can and should honor them, but without the imprimatur of state-endorsed religion.”

Federal courts are reviewing several cases of crosses on public lands being challenged as unconstitutional, including a cross erected on a remote Mojave Desert outcropping to honor American war dead. Tuesday’s ruling could influence future cases involving the separation of church and state.

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