The Supreme Court intervened Monday to save a large cross on city property in Southern California.

A lower court judge had ordered the city of San Diego to remove the cross or be fined $5,000 a day.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, acting for the high court, issued a stay while supporters of the cross continue their legal fight.

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Lawyers for San Diegans for the Mount Soledad National War Memorial said in an appeal that they wanted to avoid the "destruction of this national treasure." And attorneys for the city said the cross was part of a broader memorial that was important to the community.

The 29-foot cross, on San Diego property, sits atop Mount Soledad. A judge declared it was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

The cross, which has been in place for decades, was contested by Philip Paulson, a Vietnam veteran and atheist.

Three years ago the Supreme Court refused to consider the long-running dispute between Paulson and the city.