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High Court To Rule On WWI Mojave Cross

From those defenders of the faith (militant atheism) at the Washington Post:

Henry and Wanda Sandoz are the unofficial caretakers of the Mojave cross, which is covered in a plywood box, near Cima, Calif.

The Old Secular Cross?

High Court to Consider Issue of Church-State Separation

By Robert Barnes
Tuesday, September 29, 2009

MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE, Calif. — It would be easy to miss among the yucca and Joshua trees of this vast place — a small plywood box, set back from a gentle curve in a lonesome desert road. It looks like nothing so much as a miniature billboard without a message.

But inside the box is a 6 1/2 -foot white cross, built to honor the war dead of World War I. And because its perch on a prominent outcropping of rock is on federal land, it has been judged to be an unconstitutional display of government favoritism of one religion over another.

Whether the Mojave cross is ever unveiled again — or taken down for good — is up to the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. Next week, it will get its first major chance to divine the meaning of the First Amendment command that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

If the court reaches the constitutional issues at hand, all sides agree it could provide clarity to the court’s blurry rules on church-and-state separations. It could also carry important implications for the fate of war memorials around the country that feature religious imagery — the Argonne Cross in Arlington National Cemetery, for instance, or the Memorial Peace Cross in Bladensburg.

The Mojave cross’s protectors, which include veterans groups and the federal government, say the symbol is a historic, secular tribute; its original plaque from the 1930s said it was erected to honor "the dead of all wars." They argue that Congress has taken the steps to distance itself from any appearance of endorsing a religious display.

But the American Civil Liberties Union, Jewish and Muslim veterans, and others say government actions have only deepened the problem. In an effort to avoid the lower courts’ rulings that it must come down, Congress has designated the site the country’s only official national memorial to the dead of World War I, elevating it to an exclusive group of national treasures that includes the Washington Monument and Mount Rushmore.

Congress’s actions ensures that "the cross necessarily will reflect continued government association with the preeminent symbol of Christianity," the ACLU said.

It seems an improbable importance for this piece of desert land, where temperatures regularly hit three digits, an hour can go by without a passing car and somewhere nearby is likely to be a Mojave Green, the desert’s own highly lethal variety of rattlesnake.

"It’s just a little cross in the middle of nowhere," said Wanda Sandoz, who with her husband Henry is the cross’s unofficial caretaker. Henry built the cross that currently occupies the spot — there have been three — and the Sandozes say they are fulfilling a WWI veteran’s dying request to look after things.

Hiram Sasser, a lawyer with the Liberty Legal Institute, which represents the Veterans of Foreign Wars and assists the Sandozes, agreed.

"I always say you have to risk life and limb to be offended by this cross," he said…

The original cross had a plaque, complete with a misspelling:

"The Cross, Erected in Memory of the Dead of All Wars, erected in 1934 by Members Veterans of Foregin [sic] Wars, Death of Valley Post 2884."

[C]hallenges began in 1999, when the U.S. Park Service denied an application from a Buddhist to build a shrine nearby. Frank Buono, an assistant superintendent [of the US Park Service], informed his boss that the presence of the cross violated the Constitution’s establishment clause.

Buono is Catholic, but he said he was offended by the religious display on federal land. "The cross is important to me because it is the indispensable symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ," Buono said in an interview. "But it isn’t right that the symbol of my religion, or any religion, be permanently affixed to federal land."

Park officials agreed to take down the cross, but before they could act, Congress and the courts got involved. Congress forbade the Park Service from using any funds to remove the display. A district judge agreed with Buono that he had standing to bring his complaint and that the cross violated constitutional standards. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed the decision.

Then Congress declared the site a national memorial, and proposed to cure any constitutional problems by transferring one acre on which the cross stands to the VFW in exchange for five acres owned elsewhere in the preserve by the Sandozes.

But Buono and the ACLU went to court again, and the courts agreed that such a plan would not resolve the constitutionality question. The deal "would leave a little donut hole of land with a cross in the midst of a vast federal preserve," the appeals court said.

While the fighting has gone on, the cross has remained in place. But to comply with the court’s ruling, it was covered first by a tarpaulin bag and now by the plywood box

Buono’s lawyer, Peter Eliasberg of the Southern California chapter of the ACLU, said Congress’s efforts to avoid taking down the cross make it even clearer that it the cross is endorsed by the government. He rejected arguments that the image of the cross was a historical, rather than religious, symbol of sacrifice.

"When the government chooses a cross to recognize the veterans of World War I, which included 250,000 Jews, which included my grandfather, that is an important message and an inappropriate message for the government to send," Eliasberg said…

The court will hear arguments in Buono v. Salazar on Oct. 7.

Aren’t the petroglyphs on rocks in many of our national parks the religious musings of Indians Native Americans?

Should be start blowing them up, like the Taliban do with any other religious symbols that compete with theirs?

Come to think of it, the Taliban and the ACLU have a lot in common.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, September 29th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

6 Responses to “High Court To Rule On WWI Mojave Cross”

  1. jrmcdonald says:

    The problem is a 1976 federal law called the Civil Rights Attorney’s Fees Awards Act, the ACLU has been gouging taxpayers for lawsuits they initiate. The ACLU makes money with these cases, your tax money!

  2. Helena says:

    Boy, you’ve got that right, JR. Getting that repealed is a worthy goal.

    But, alternatively, perhaps the ACLU could start going after teachers who indoctrinate schoolchildren into the cult of The Won. I’ll hold my breath.

  3. Yarddog1 says:

    I must say just one more time; “I AM JUST ABOUT ON MY LAST NERVE WHEN IT COMES TO JACKASSES FEELING THAT THEY MUST DICTATE THEIR OWN DAMNED VIEW OF LIFE ON EVERYONE ELSE”. Why don’t people live and let live? Everyone has to be offended about something. What shallow and dull lives they must live. One day they will look back and regret all the usless time they spent – life is very short.

  4. Georgfelis says:

    Isn’t the Washington Monument an Obelisk, an ancient Egyptian religious symbol? By the same logic used by the ACLU, vast chunks of Washington DC would need to have plywood boxes put around them, so they can be removed as not to give atheists the vapors.

    We have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.

  5. bousquem says:

    The ALCU and associated goon squad have really taken this way to far. As far as I can understand, the establishment clause was meant to prevent a state run religion like the church of England. What is next, demanding any crosses or such on the gravestones be sandblasted off lest someone else be offended? Also, the cross is laying in a box on the side of a hill that is not visible from the road, how is that going to start offending people who drive by if they don’t even know it’s there. It seems like the left wants that if any christian symbol is displayed you have to have the symbols of every other religion and cult out there next to it and overshadowing it.

    The goverment keeps intruding in our lives with what we can and cannot do or think these days. And the left just pushes it along, using the constitution as a shield while stripping away the rights it gives from most of america, reserving those rights for a select few to pevert and interpret in ways to accomodate their whims.

  6. beautyofreason says:

    I wonder what the ACLU thought about “Islam Day,” passed by the Hawaii legislature, which coincides with no Islamic holiday, but the Julian calendar date for September 11th.

    Whoops…wrong religion….I guess it’s just dandy!

    http://www.hawaiifreepress.com/main/ArticlesMain/tabid/56/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/716/Hawaii-ldquoIslam-Dayrdquo-secretly-marks-September-11.aspx


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