By the time you read this, the case may already be decided. But I’d like to throw this out for your opinion anyway.
Today, Wednesday, October 07, 2009, the Supreme Court is hearing the case of the “Mojave Desert Cross”. This monument has been the subject of a heated argument for fifteen years.
1934: a Christian Cross is erected on Sunrise Rock by the VFW as a WWI Memorial
1994: Sunrise Rock becomes the Mojave National Preserve, a 1.6 million acre preserve, administered by the National Park Service (NPS)
1999: An unnamed private citizen petitions the NPS to erect a Buddhist memorial in the vicinity of the Mojave Cross. The petition is denied.
1999: the ACLU files a complaint with the NPS on behalf of Frank Buono (Catholic, Veteran, former Ranger with the NPS), stating that the cross violates the “Establishment Clause” of the Constitution. The ACLU requested that the cross be removed because, although it was maintained as a war memorial, it did not represent all veterans, only those who were Christians.
Oct. 2000: NPS agrees to remove the cross
Dec. 2000: Rep. Jerry Lewis of California (no, not THAT Jerry Lewis) inserts language into a House Appropriations bill that prohibits federal funds from being used to “remove the white cross from within the boundary of the Mojave National Preserve.”
March, 2001: ACLU files lawsuit on behalf of Buono, seeking to compel the removal of the cross
July, 2002: U.S. District Court rules in the ACLU’s favor stating that the cross conveys a “message of endorsement of religion.”
2002: Rep. Lewis inserts language into a Defense Appropriations Bill declaring the Cross Site to be a national memorial and arranged a deal transferring the acre of land on which the cross sits to the VFW in exchange for five acres of privately owned land within the preserve. This technically removed the cross from federal land. Language of the transfer may include (I read this in a couple of articles but couldn’t find concrete evidence) the provision that, if the VFW was no longer able to maintain the land, it would revert back to the NPS.
July, 2004: Ninth Circuit Court rules in the ACLU’s favor, rejecting the land transfer proposal, stating, in part, that the “primary effect of the presence of the cross” was to “advance religion” and therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
2008: Bush Administration appeals the Ninth Circuit decision, arguing that Buono was an Oregon resident and therefore lacked legal standing to sue over a cross in California. They further argued that the land transfer was a “sensible” and “permissible” way of “resolving the establishment clause problem.”
Feb. 2009: Supreme Court agrees to hear the Mojave Cross Case (Salazar vs. Buono). It comes before the court on Wednesday, October 07, 2009. The cross still stands on Sunrise Rock, but is currently covered by a large plywood box until a decision is made. Obama Administration lawyers bear the responsibility of defending the right of the Department of the Interior to maintain the cross.
The relevant part of the First Amendment to the Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
What do you think? Should the cross be allowed to stand?