High court says Mojave cross in Calif. can stay

High court says Mojave cross in Calif. can stay

By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer Mark Sherman, Associated Press Writer – 31 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court said Wednesday that a federal court went too far in ordering the removal of a congressionally endorsed war memorial cross from its longtime home in California.

In ruling the cross could stay, the justices said federal judges in California did not take sufficient notice of the government's decision to transfer the land in a remote area of California to private ownership. The move was designed to eliminate any constitutional concern about a religious symbol on public land.

The ruling was 5-4, with the court's conservatives in the majority.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars erected the cross more than 75 years ago atop an outcropping in the Mojave National Preserve.

It has been covered with plywood for the past several years following the court rulings. Court papers describe the cross as 5 feet to 8 feet tall.

"Here one Latin cross in the desert evokes far more than religion. It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies are compounded if the fallen are forgotten," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens agreed that soldiers who died in battle deserve a memorial to their service. But the government "cannot lawfully do so by continued endorsement of a starkly sectarian message," Stevens said.

Six justices wrote separate opinions and none spoke for a majority of the court. The holding itself was narrow, ordering lower courts to look again at the transfer of land from the government to private control.

Lower federal courts previously ruled that the cross' location on public land violated the Constitution and that the land transfer was, in effect, an end run around the constitutional problem

3 Comments

4 years 30 weeks ago, 4:13 PM

Vaquero

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GOOD!

That's the best thing I've heard from the courts in a while.

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!
4 years 30 weeks ago, 6:18 PM

zx12rmike

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Awesome news, one battle at a time!!

"We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home" Thomas Jefferson
4 years 27 weeks ago, 6:06 PM

Pkato

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Authorities say a Mojave Desert war memorial cross that replaced one that was stolen is illegal and must come down.

Linda Slater, a spokeswoman with the Mojave National Preserve, says a maintenance worker spotted the 7½-foot replica cross made of metal pipes on Thursday in a federal park.

The original cross was stolen more than a week ago. It had been the subject of a lawsuit arguing that the Christian symbol didn't belong on public land.

The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily allowed the old cross to stand, but Slater says the new cross isn't covered by the ruling and will be taken down.

The site's caretakers constructed a replacement cross on Saturday. Wanda Sandoz, who has watched over the site with her husband Henry since 1984, said the one put in place Wednesday night is not the one welded by her husband.

Sandoz said the cross that went up overnight is white, but their replica has not been painted yet -- indicating that the replacement could be the original stolen cross or someone else's replica.

"I'm curious as to how they got it up there," Sandoz said, explaining that erecting the cement-filled pipes was a rigorous and difficult process — and would be much harder by the light of a quarter moon.

"It's not like you can dig a hole and put a cross in there. It's solid rock up there," she said.

Thieves used bolt cutters to rip through the inch-thick bolts that had kept the cross in place since 1984. That memorial replaced a wooden cross that was put up in the Mojave Desert in 1934 by veterans of World War I to honor troops who died in battle.

Sandoz said her husband was helped by about five or six ranchers when he put up the metal cross in 1984. "One man couldn't have taken it down, and one man couldn't put it back up," she said.

The Park Service told FoxNews.com on Wednesday that it opposed replacing the stolen cross as long as litigation continues.

A $125,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest of the thieves who took the memorial.

FoxNews.com's Joe Abrams and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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