For sometime our religious symbols have been the target of groups such as the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and even our own court system.
The seven-foot tall, concrete and metal Mojave Desert Cross erected in the middle of the Mojave Desert near Barstow, CA was originally constructed in 1934 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars to honor our fallen heroes. The plaque read:
“The Cross, Erected in Memory of the Dead of All Wars” and “Erected 1934 by Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars, Death Valley Post 2884.”
In 2001 a former park service employee, Frank Buono, representing the ACLU sued to have the cross taken down arguing the government was endorsing a certain religion. A federal court of appeals ruled the cross violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution and ordered it removed.
On April 28 of 2010 SCOTUS ordered the cross could stay, ruling the lower court did not take into consideration the government had decided to cede the parcel of land where the cross was erected to the VFW. During the time the case was under consideration the cross was ordered to be covered with plywood.
Several days after the SCOTUS ruling a park ranger went to repair the plywood which had been damaged and discovered the cross had been stolen: the bolts had been cut which anchored it to the bedrock. Here is Shepard Smith on Fox News reporting on the devastating and disgraceful news:
Thomas J. Tradewell, VFW National Commander had this to say after the theft was discovered:
This was a legal fight that a vandal just made personal to 50 million veterans, military personnel and their families.
It has been the intention of veterans groups to rebuild the cross and many volunteers have offered their services, legally the land still is not theirs and vowed to fight on. The cross has been rebuilt several times before, as it was originally built of wood which had not taken the elements well. In the 1990’s it was rebuilt of metal pipe.
On January 10, 2011, Liberty Institute with the assistance of the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in LA are suing the Feds to force them to deed the one acre plot of land to the veterans so the cross can be rebuilt. Plaintiffs in the case are VFW Post 385 and VFW Department of California. Defendants are Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar; Christine S. Lehnertz, Regional Director, Pacific NW Region of the National Park Service and Dennis Schramm, Superintendent of the Mojave National Reserve. The complaint is below:
REFUSING to transfer ownership of the land, on which the Mojave Desert Memorial has stood, to the VFW, as directed by a 2003 Act of Congress.
NEGLECTING to replace the Mojave Desert Cross, the only national WWI Memorial designated by the United States Congress.
IGNORING a joint letter from the National Commanders of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion and Military Order of the Purple Heart politely asking for the President’s help in restoring the monument.
TEAMING UP with the ACLU and asking the district court to not allow the veterans request to intervene in the case to protect their memorial, their land.
In 2003 Rep. Jerry Lewis orchestrated a “land swap” in which the one-acre parcel the cross sat on would be deeded to the Veterans in exchange for a 5-acre parcel donated to the government in another part of the Mojave Preserve by Wanda and Henry Sandoz. The lawsuit was filed to uphold the land transfer.
In another attack against our religious symbols, the liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled the Mount Soledad Memorial Crossunconstitutional. Liberty Institute has this online petition, Don’t Tear Me Down,asking President Obama to appeal the 9th Circuit’s decision.
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