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U.S. Justice Department joins probe into stolen Mojave cross

Me-mojave-cross-g U.S. Justice Department officials said Tuesday they are working to find whoever tore down and stole an 8-foot-high cross that stood as a war memorial in Mojave National Preserve and which prompted a lengthy legal battle culminating in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing the cross to remain on federal land.

An employee of the National Park Service on Monday discovered the metal cross missing from its site atop Sunrise Rock. The bolts attaching the cross to a metal plate were cut sometime between late Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, said park service spokeswoman Linda Slater.

“We are working with the appropriate agencies to look into the theft as well as what impact it may have on the ongoing litigation,” Department of Justice officials said in a statement.

Although the Supreme Court ruled two weeks ago that the cross could stay in the preserve, the decision still could be affected by a lower court. It was ordered to look into the possibility of transferring the federal land under the site into private hands.

Slater said park officials had been told to continue covering the cross with its plywood case until litigation ends completely.

The cross has stood since 1934 in various forms as a memorial to World War I soldiers. In 1999, after the park service refused to permit a Buddhist shrine to be erected nearby, former employee Frank Buono sued, saying the official preference for the cross violated the 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights and its ban on "an establishment of religion."

Officials were ordered to remove the cross, but in April Supreme Court justices reversed the decision in a 5-4 ruling.

The wooden cover for the cross was reported missing by park staff Saturday morning. The cross itself was last seen standing Sunday.

"This happened on Sunday night when someone went up there and demolished it,” said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel at the Liberty Institute, which has represented the veterans groups in court throughout the controversy. “It hasn’t even been two weeks since the Supreme Court decision and evidently someone didn’t like that decision and took the law into their own hands and tore it down.”

Shackelford said the cross was made of 3- to 4-inch-thick pipes filled with cement and bolted into the ground. To remove it, he said, would have taken a major effort involving planning and probably more than one person.

The national commander of the VFW called the destruction of the cross "sickening."

"This was a legal fight that a vandal just made personal to 50 million veterans, military personnel and their families," said Thomas J. Tradewell Sr. "To think anyone can rationalize the desecration of a war memorial is sickening, and for them to believe they won't be apprehended is very naive."

Anyone with information is asked to call National Park Service law enforcement at (760) 252-6120.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

-- Corina Knoll and David Kelly

Earlier in L.A. Now: Mojave Desert cross, focus of long legal battle, is stolen

Comments () | Archives (11)

Ah yes, the liberals...the Democrats...the party that preaches tolerance and compassion. So, if they try to replace it with an identical cross, does this mean they have to go through the courts again?

Vote early, vote often, and VOTE REPUBLICAN.

it had to be some leberial or aclu member who could not get
there way

I'd say this qualifies as a hate crime.

James - Amen! I hope the Feds are looking at this angle.....

Amazing what happens when the left doesn't get their way...Put a new cross in its' place with an armed guard....sounds fair to me..

No, they don't have to go through the courts again. The Supreme Court ruling validated the land trade, so the cross is on private property now.

I agree with James, hate crime enhancements to any penalties are appropriate.

I have trouble expressing my disgust with this crime without resulting to inappropriate ad-homenums.

Does the expression "sacred burial grounds" mean anything to the athiestic terrorists involved?

This should be prosecuted as a HATE crime, not just a case of theft. The only reason someone would tear down a cross that has stood at the memorial for decades is Christphobia!

Come on guys - really? You're going to sit there and just blame all liberals? That is no better than every time a right-wing nut does something stupid all the conservatives get blamed.

This is part of the problem with our society - everyone gets clumped together. It was the act of an individual or a small group of individuals. It wasn't the democrats, or liberals, or whatever you want to call them.

Please don't be so close-minded.

Actually, instead of a cross, how about a TRUE war memorial - not one that disgraces and ignores the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of soldiers of Non-Christian religions who have died for our country.

Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Mormons, Etc. are NOT honored by a Christian symbol. There is no way to believe a cross represents them in death.

Now is the chance to do it right, place a nice, respectable SOLDIER statue there.

How does that go?
Do unto others....?

The cross has risen. Praise be to GOD!. The cross is now in heaven seated to the left of Jesus! No need for a new one now!

How about they catch that faceless "leberial or aclu member" and determine motive before talking about hate crimes? Oh, I forgot, nothing can happen these days without half-crazed partisan reactions!

Sure, let's pay armed guards to watch over concrete-filled pipes, that's a REAL conservative use of our tax dollars. Just goes to show you how much of a difference there is between those who vote conservative and those who "VOTE REPUBLICAN."


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