Mojave Cross: The Fight Goes On

Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling in the case Salazar vs. Buono — concerning a cross in the Mojave National Preserve that has been designated as a national memorial — wasn’t quite what we were hoping for, but was also encouraging in some respects. The question of whether or not the government’s sale of the land on which the cross sits to a private veterans’ organization remedies a violation of the Establishment Clause has been sent back to district court. The Supreme Court found that the lower court used the wrong legal standard in deciding to invalidate a transfer of the land on which the cross stands to private ownership. But the opinion does leave the door open to reaching a favorable outcome in the case, and, more importantly, does not preclude private citizens from challenging the constitutionality of religious displays on government property in the future.

The case, Salazar v. Buono, stems from a complaint raised by veteran and former National Park Service employee Frank Buono, who claimed that the presence of an overtly religious symbol on federal land represented unconstitutional favoritism toward a specific religion.

In 2002, while the federal district court case was pending, Congress designated the cross as a national memorial. In an apparent attempt to circumvent the Establishment Clause violation, Congress also transferred one acre of land on which the cross stands to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, with the provision that the VFW continue to maintain it as a war memorial.

The ACLU, which represented Buono in the case, will continue to argue that the transfer does not remedy the government’s unconstitutional endorsement of one particular religion. “The cross is unquestionably a sectarian symbol,” said the ACLU of Southern California’s Peter Eliasberg, who argued the case before the Court, “and we respectfully but strongly disagree with the suggestion by some members of the Court that the cross does not favor one religion.”

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Anonymous

@Anon1:

So, because the ACLU wants to protect the separation of church and state, it's apparently an evil, godless organization that will lead to the end of the US?

Anonymous

Thank you ACLU for watching out for everyone's freedom of or from religion!

roald

Maggie, the sale was done for no other purpose than to try to make this appear to be legal. Therefore the sale is itself a violation of the Constitution.

Steve

Roald, if the ACLU can stop this, what's to stop them from preventing a family from erecting a small cross on the side of a road to mourn the victims of traffic accidents?

I

ACLU just another Westboro Baptist church. How is a cross that has been standing since 1930's effecting my freedom? Holy s**t pull ur head out of ur ars people

Anonymous

I thought this country was based on religious persecution. As the contributors above seem to feel that the placing of a cross on public land is against the constitution why don't we meet up at Arlington and remove all the religious signs there.

Anonymous

So do we need to remove teh crosses from Arlington National Cemetary next? This nation was founded because of religion, now we want to do away church.

Anonymous

So to get your own way you now decide to steal the cross is that right?

Anonymous

There's controversy over crosses on public land, yet the nation's capitol is allowed to be turned into an edifice of papal temporal power? Take a look at this: http://forums.myspace.com/t/4797448.aspx?fuseaction=forums.viewthread The Holy Roman Empire Resurrected In America

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