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Removal of California memorial cross blocked by U.S. Supreme Court


The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the removal of a congressionally endorsed war memorial cross from its longtime home in the Mojave Desert, saying a federal court went too far in ordering that it be taken out.

At issue is a cross that sits atop Sunrise Rock in a remote part of California's Mojave National Preserve. Since 1934, the cross has existed, in one form or another, as a war memorial. Different court documents refer to it as 5 to 8 feet tall.

A decade ago, it came under legal attack from a former National Park Service employee who, though a Catholic, thought it was inappropriate to favor one religion over another in the preserve. The park service had turned down a request to have a Buddhist symbol erected nearby.

A federal judge and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the stand-alone display of the cross in the national preserve was unconstitutional and, further, that Congress' move to transfer it to the private Veterans of Foreign Wars did not solve the problem.

The Obama administration, joining with the VFW, urged the high court to uphold the display of the cross now that it is in private hands.

U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan said the "sensible action by Congress" to give the VFW control of the cross and the land under it solved the 1st Amendment problem. The cross is no longer on government land and under government control, she said.

According to the Associated Press, the justices said Wednesday that the earlier ruling by federal judges did not take sufficient notice of the government's decision to transfer the land to private ownership to eliminate any constitutional concern about a religious symbol on public land.

A full report from the Supreme Court coming soon.

-- Times staff writer

Photo: The cross covered. L.A. Times file

Comments () | Archives (23)

Christians are hypocrites. No better than the Taliban!

Will the city council now call for a boycott of the Mojave Desert? Gotta do something, since they can't control the city's messes, might as well stick their noses into others' business.

Wonderful news!

This supreme farce has to be the worst of all times and that says a lot, because the supreme court hasn't been all that "judicial." They have more legislative concerns than justice and that is a worrisome tangent. To prove the point, we don't have to go to far how legislative and partisan this supreme farce has become, we can't point to the 100 year statute of prohibiting corporations to be viewed as individuals. And of course, the members of the court are not necesarily rocket scientists, but rather will be viewed by most Americans as the dumbest of the dumb. With Clarence Thomas, Scalia, Alito and Roberts, we could call this supreme farce, the keystone cops of the judicial system and they should be "proud", they earned it.

The FEDS need to stay out of individual states issues....since they refuse to help when it counts... what's Obama going to stick his nose into next...Hmmmmm.

Thank God for freedom of expression.

And it doesn't occur to anyone what a dishonest, unconstitutional end run it is to say, any time a Christian symbol is displayed on public land, "just hand the land it's on over to a private citizen, even though it's still in the MIDDLE OF public land and still makes it look to the world as if the U.S. is endorsing Christianity and scorning all other religions (not to mention the NONreligious, who, last time I checked, still paid taxes)"? Way to show real tolerance for religious diversity and respect for the separation of Church and State, there, SCOTUS.

Finally a bit of common sense, although they never should have had to transfer it in the first place.

The 1st amendemnt prohibts the establishment of a state religion, NOT all displays of religion by government.

The cross SHOULD stay. I couldn't care less WHAT the people's beliefs are who oppose to it's existence, it needs to be respected - as with all religious symbols, displays and beliefs.

I hope the National Park Service employee is no longer employed by the government. Shame on him/her for wasting court funds to fight such a frivolous issue. And a Catholic too, you say? Shocking...Catholics are always known to have such "open" minds. LOL

With all our idiot judges and political leaders in California (banning Happy Meals in Silicon Valley?! Ugh...) it's heartening to see some sense from the High Court.

I think is should stay Government land or private land

I don't understand the decision of the 2 lower courts deciding that the cross, a Christian symbol, was unconstitutional. Since the story doesn't say, I'm assuming it was because it favored one religion over another on governmant land. Then can someone with some common sense then answer a simple question? If the cross is such a inapropriate symbol over a park, why do the courts still allow the major cities in California to keep and maintain their Catholic names; Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Ana, etc. Aren't the names of these cities more visible than a cross on a hill side? Aren't these cities government instituitions and the names favor one religion over others?

So,,,just to be fair, the State of California will now be donating land to the Hindu's, Buddhist, Muslim, and wicken?

what is this athism or is it the land of the free this nation was built under GOD what is wrong with the cross its for people who gave there life for this country you morons

THe Supreme Court got this one right. THe 9th Circus blew the decision again.
There is no establishment of religion here. THe memorial was initially placed on the site by a group of WWI veterans as a rememberance to their fallen brothers. To the offended atheist who filed the initial lawsuit, GET OVER IT!!! Our founding fathers guaranteed "Freedom of Religion" NOT "Freedom from religion".

They got it right. Crosses mark the graves of fallen soldiers worldwide. To imply this was a symbol of one particular church or segment of society is wrong. God bless all of our fallen heros. Shame on the miscreant who filed this lawsuit.

This is very disturbing. What's next? Removing "In God We Trust" on the bills?

Manny, quit posting stuff like that, the next lawsuits will address those very things. And Emile, I would submit the 9th Circuit Court are the Keystone Cops here, not the SCOTUS.

When mankind is so "affraid/ashamed/politically cowardice" as to DENY God and/or symbols of God then mankind is unworthy for to forsake God is cowardice for God should be celebrated in all matters for without God there is NO mankind.
Nuff Said.

Ed, please go back and re-read the article. The person who complained was a Catholic, not an Atheist.

I am amazed and greatly pleased by the courts decision. All they have to do is ask the veterans and families of soldiers killed if they wanted to respect thier sacrifices to allow fools like the ACLU to freely spew thier hate for Americans of faith.

If I remember right, this cross is in the desert that is 11 miles off the main road. Who would stumbel apond it.

I don't care what your religion is. I'm glad it's staying and should left alone. Come on people, do you know anyone who has even seen it?


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