WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to allow a 43-foot-tall cross that serves as a war memorial to remain atop Mount Soledad near San Diego, arguing the cross that has been there since 1954 is not an endorsement of religion.

The government should not be required “to tear down a cross that has stood without incident for 58 years as a highly venerated memorial to the nation’s fallen service members,” Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. said in a new appeal to the high court.

He urged the justices to reverse a decision of the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals that last year held the cross was primarily a Christian symbol and unconstitutional. Its prominent display on public land in La Jolla amounted to an official “endorsement of religion” in violation of the First Amendment, the judges said in a 3-0 ruling.

If the justices take up the case later this year — which is likely — it could force them to finally resolve whether religious symbols, such as a cross or the Ten Commandments, can be prominently displayed on public land.

Two years ago, the high court rejected a challenge to the display of a small cross in the Mojave National Preserve, but the five justices in the majority disagreed on the reasons. The 9th Circuit’s latest opinion mostly ignored that ruling.

Since 1989, lawsuits from several veterans have challenged the Mount Soledad cross, arguing that a single religious symbol did not speak for all vets.