A federal judge has ruled that in 2014, Los Angeles County violated the California constitution when it added a Christian cross to the official seal. The judged dismissed arguments that the change was to promote historical accuracy. The ruling means the county will have to go back to an older version of the seal that does not include the cross. However, the seal will still feature a Spanish mission as a nod to the region’s Catholic roots.
First seal: 1887–1957
The original 1887 county seal displayed grapes, surrounded by the words “Board of Supervisors — Los Angeles Co. Cal.”
Second seal: 1957–2004
Former L.A. County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn designed a new seal, which was drawn by Millard Sheets, and adopted by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on January 2, 1957, effective March 1, 1957. It included an image of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit trees, and the symbols of a cross and oil towers.
Third seal: 2004–2014
In 2004, the seal was altered. A short time later, on May 25, 2004, the ACLU claimed that the seal’s cross was a violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. The Board’s new seal had also voluntarily eliminated Pomona and the oil towers, without references by the ACLU.
In the current seal, the stars and an image of the Hollywood Bowl (originally in the middle right column, also where the cross was originally placed) replaced the oil towers. The cross was removed, and replaced with an image of the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel.
Some official L.A. county buildings still use old seals, probably due to lack of effort in removing the seals. Occasionally, when a new seal is adopted, old ones may continue to be used until they are no longer usable due to wear, as in Mississippi’s case when it adopted a new state seal in 2014.
Fourth seal: 2014–present
On Tuesday, January 7, 2014, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to put a cross back on top of the mission, depicted on the County seal claiming it more correctly reflected the history of the San Gabriel Mission. The cross on the mission was removed during renovation. The ACLU of Southern California expressed opposition, claiming the action would violate both the Californian and United States Constitution. A federal lawsuit was filed against Los Angeles County on February 6, 2014. In April 2016, the addition of the cross to the seal was ruled unconstitutional.