Mojave Cross Case Faces Courts

 By Shelly Voss

   A case concerning the fate of a cross erected on Mojave National Preserve as a memorial to fallen war WWI heroes is now before the Supreme Court.

   Seventy-five years ago, veterans of WWI set up a memorial in honor of their fallen brothers and sisters in the form of an 8-foot, metal cross. Now covered by plywood, that cross has become the center of a political argument dating back to 1947, when in Everson v. Board of Education; religious dominance in the United States was first openly challenged. The case arose from the complaint of Frank Buono, a former National Park Service employee, who claimed offense at the presence of the monument and recruited the services of the ACLU to have the cross taken down. Now the courts will determine if leaving the cross in its current setting is constitutionally acceptable or not.

   Across the nation, war memorials are dotted with crosses representing the lives that have been lost for the United States. “The cross is the most profound symbol of the most humble act of service — to lay down one’s life for another. It was veterans who chose the cross to symbolize the service of their brothers and sisters in the military who laid down their lives to keep our country free,” said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America. An ex-employee’s offense at a grandfathered memorial located on a remote hill in a 1.4 million acre preserve is irrelevant to a case at this level; offense is a matter of semantics.

   On the other hand, one could argue that the separation of church and state is in direct violation due to the fact that Mojave National Preserve is indeed federally owned. Although approximately 30 years ago, when the ACLU first protested against this monument, the courts suggested that the acre on which the cross sits be sold to the VFW, the suggestion was turned down. Many are offended by the Christian symbol standing in honor of all fallen veterans when, obviously, not all fallen heroes are Christian.

   Ultimately this case reveals that the courts have not yet come to an agreement concerning religious displays on public land.