The Mojave Cross

Mojave Cross

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.

The Tug-o-War (paraphrased from Snopes, Religious Tolerance.org, and the UK Telegraph.  Interesting that the best news story I found on this came from the UK Telegraph, but that’s another story.):

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.”

Mojave Cross BoxFeb. 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?

This entry was posted in America, government, obama, private property, questions, religion, wars and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to The Mojave Cross

  1. Joy says:

    Yes I do think the cross should be allowed to stand. I can’t for the life of me see one thing that it hurts.

  2. SKL says:

    Yes, because it is historical and it isn’t hurting anyone. If they can force the removal of something just because it is visible and reflects religious views, what’s to stop them from demolishing churches, historical missions, etc., and changing many of our geographical names to generic ones? Will they also take down the original founding documents from historical buildings in DC since they mention God? Why would they want to hide the fact that (a) our country has a religious history and (b) most Americans happen to be Christian?

    I don’t believe anyone could honestly argue that allowing a WWI memorial to stand is “congress making a law establishing a religion.” But I would argue that tearing it down is “prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” However, I don’t have faith in the Obama administration to do the right thing.

  3. DM says:

    ditto’s to what Joy and SKL said- especially want to highlight this point: the ACLU seems to have forgotten this sentence is also in the constitution : ” prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

  4. pammy wammy says:

    I think it should just be left alone.Being a WWI memorial is of value and to those who serve and have served. 😦

  5. Laura says:

    I generally agree with everyone, except that one small thing sticks in my craw: the fact that the NPS denied a Buddhist memorial near where this cross stands.

    Now, there may be plenty of reasons why… the ground that was proposed is unsuitable, perhaps. Or maybe it was just a “throw away” offer – one that wasn’t really serious, just thrown out there to muddy the waters. I don’t know.

    But, if it WAS a serious offer, and it WAS seriously denied, I would like to know why a Christian symbol is allowed to stand but a separate religion is not.

    That being said, the Cross should be allowed to stand. It is, at this point, as much a historical marker as a religious one. Further, it’s existence is not *forcing* anyone to worship anything, which is what the Establishment Clause was put in place to prevent.

    • Joy says:

      I thought the same thing too Laura when I read about the Buddhist memorial but we don’t know the whys of that. Maybe they could leave the cross and do what Just A Mom suggested and add other people’s shrines (for lack of a better word).

    • SKL says:

      Well, I think there is a difference between keeping a historical monument in place and erecting a new religious icon on public land. I mean, there’s a difference between allowing the Parthenon to stand – and even preserving it with government funds – versus building a new church next door to it on public land.

      I for one don’t like the idea of having various other shrines built around the cross to appease people of other religions. That would actually make the site more of a modern religious statement than it is now – aside from completely losing the historical significance of the cross as a war memorial. It’s not the government’s role to subsidize religious speech nor to even the playing field among religions. But to the extent that this has happened historically, that is part of the nation’s history.
      So what if not everyone views that aspect of history as beneficial for all Americans? Several European nations have Holocaust-related monuments, and we don’t seem to have a problem with that. It seems we only make an exception for Christian-related history, and that’s discriminatory as well as ignorant.

      Someone made a good point about removing the crosses at Arlington Cemetary. It wouldn’t surprise me if the anti-religion liberals started pushing for that. At some point, this movement becomes more of an attack on individual freedoms (protected by the 1st amendment) than anything else. Where do we draw the line?

    • Manuel says:

      I don’t think the budhist were on our side in WWI.

  6. Sue says:

    I agree with everyone. Back in 1934 it wasn’t to promote religion but to recognize those who lost their lives during the war. Are they going to take down all the crosses in Arlington National Cemetry? Will they take down all the mosques and temples then that offend Christians or non believers? Not a chance b/c then we’d be infringing on their rights, but who cares about what this country was built on. Like it or not, we have a religious history like SKL said, but we should be learning from it not trying to hide and dismantle it.

  7. nikki says:

    Why not..who is it really hurting?? It’s out in the desert people! It’s not shoved in your face. For those who don’t like it..don’t go and look at it..and get over it!

  8. Gary says:

    HELL YES I think the cross should stand. The cross stood there for 65 years and THEN someone suddenly has a problem with it? Come on people…..get a hobby or something!

  9. Just a Mom says:

    The cross should stand as is and if they want to add a Star of David or some other sign or symbol that should be allowed as well.

  10. 1) I admit that I haven’t read all the comments. So if I repeat, I beg your indulgence.

    2) I am Catholic; having said that, I’m not a very good one, but by baptism I am such. I put more stock in my own personal faith and belief in One God than in what dogma forces down my throat.

    3) I believe in America, and in everything she’s risen from and fought for. That includes our Constitution.

    4) I genuinely have no problem, whatsoever, with a display in honor of our veterans, even one beseeching God’s eternal blessings and peace upon those who have gone to Him for our mortal sakes.

    5) I have huge problems with the subtle, even insidious, intermingling of church and state; of anything remotely allowing the infiltration of any perceived federally sanctioned religion.

    As much as I really do like and as a human being approve of having the cross up there for its stated purpose, I defer to the Establishment Clause. It is all the more imperative these days.

    Ben Franklin said (and I paraphrase here) “He who would give up liberty for safety deserves neither liberty nor safety.”

    I understand we’re not talking about safety here, but indirectly we are skirting an issue of liberty, and more importantly sovereignty.

    Little by little we give away a small slice of this or a minor piece of that, and collectively we chip away at one of the very things that makes us American–that makes any countryman, any citizen, proud of their country–its soveriegnty.

    Sure, we could allow the cross, because it is not, of itself, offensive in the least. But once you give the slightest perception, to even the least intelligent among us, that the government is quietly supporting only Christians and not Mormons, or Buddhists, Jews, etc., then you’ve got a tremendous breach in the dike, and it will assuredly quickly erode away everything else around it.

    As much as I want to say leave the cross there, because it is an important symbol to me, I also believe we need to more deeply scrutinize and understand why the Constitution sets forth such ideals.

    It’s not because we don’t believe, or that we’re not God-fearing . . . it’s for those very reasons. We came to this continent to escape the very religious tyrannies were are now thumping one another with.

    I love God and my country. So, what shall I be labeled?

    • mssc54 says:

      “The establishment clause has generally been interpreted to prohibit 1) the establishment of a national religion by Congress, or 2) the preference of one religion over another or the support of a religious idea with no identifiable secular purpose. The first approach is called the “separationist” or “no aid” interpretation, while the second approach is called the “non-preferentialist” or “accommodationist” interpretation. The accommodationist interpretation prohibits Congress from preferring one religion over another, but does not prohibit the government’s entry into religious domain to make accommodations in order to achieve the purposes of the Free Exercise Clause.”

      The National Parks Service is NOT Congress. The First Amendmant says that CONGRESS can not…

      Since the First Amendmant GUARANTEES freedom of religious expression. It does NOT say you can not do it on a National Park. Other religious “statues” should be allowed to be errected too.

      If the land is “swapped” acre for acre then what’s the big deal.

      Religious tyrany? C’mon man are you serious? If the National Parks leaves the cross up they are a Tyrant?

      Freedom of Speach NOT Freedom from Speach. I guess we shouldn’t even talk about religion on public land.

  11. javajunkee says:

    leave it alone! if we want to get picky then let’s take those heads down out of the mountain!

  12. JaneA says:

    The point is to safeguard ourselves from tyranny and religious oppression by clearly keeping church and state separate.

    The cross should have been relocated as soon as the land it was on became federal land. That it wasn’t was negligence on the government’s part.

    It should have been a known condition of the sale, and if the VFW had a problem with it they could have blocked the original sale.

    A private buy out at this point is fiddling with the intention of the law.

    • SKL says:

      I think they should also get rid of all the historical Native American burial grounds on public land, since they have a spiritual aspect and hence would be the government establishing a religion, right?

      I don’t know why this even became public land, but if the people at the time knew that this could cause the cross to be torn down, maybe that transaction would never have happened. Maybe the government should give back the land rather than breach the intent of the original contract.

      • JaneA says:

        Native sacred sites on federal lands, yes, interesting point… there we’re dealing with a type of foreign relations though, right? Huh… I don’t know.

        I am going to get my 8th grade US History class’s input on this.

        (It would be good to know more about the circumstances of the original sale to the the federal government.)

  13. JaneA says:

    They all seem to think that it should be left alone because it is not hurting anyone and it honors the WWI Veterans. Because it was there previous to the sale to the government the government did not establish it and so this does not violate the first amendment – also they do not maintain it.

    They do not see it as a conflict between church and state.

    Native American sacred sites on public land would fall under the same logic, they were there previous to the establishment of the United States, therefore you would leave them alone – also cemetery desecration is a whole other thing – and you will be cursed if you dig up bodies. (Not all the students believe that last bit.)

  14. Manuel says:

    The ACLU is worried this cross could offend someone, but I and many more are offended that there is a cross in a box. Do I count? They should remove the box because the government has no right to cover religous symbols it violates the constitution for the court to cover the cross.

  15. feudi pandola says:

    With all that is going wrong in our great country, it is so sda that we still have to fight such obtuse battles. How is this much different from the Taliban blowing up the Buddha Statues in Afghanistan? It reflects the insidious nature of intolerance espoused by so many of the politically correct fascists who seem to be running things lately.

  16. SKL says:

    I heard they backed off the decision to mess with this monument.

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