Supreme Court to Hear Case on Mojave Cross

Michael Santo's picture

It's so far into the Mojave Desert, that some have wondered if any would even know about it, if litigation had not been brought forth. It's known as the "Mojave Cross," and the Supreme Court, whose new term just began, will hear a case on it.

The case is really called Salazar vs. Buono and is scheduled to be taken up by the high court on Wednesday. The Mojave Cross was erected 75 years ago by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Until recently, none but locals even knew about it. The site was not even on maps.

The Mojave Cross was erected in 1934. It sits on a 4,000-foot plateau and was a place of reflection for many veterans who went to the desert in part to recover from severe lung disease caused by poison gas attacks during WWI.

In 1994 came what caused the real issue. 1.6 million acres of desert, including the Mojave Cross, was transferred to the National Park Service. That made it government land, and now you can see the issue. A religious symbol on government land might cause a problem, right.

When a few years later, a resident wanted to put up a Buddhist shrine near the cross, the request was denied. It was then that Frank Buono, a former deputy superintendent of the preserve, filed a lawsuit with the help of the ACLU. You can probably see why: the Mojave Cross is there, but a Buddhist shrine cannot be.

To someone with a bit of common sense, it might seem that the Mojave Cross should be "grandfathered in," meaning that since it was there before that land became public land, it should remain, but no further religious symbols should be erected. However, earlier this decade, one court ruled the Cross should be torn down, while another ruled it should be covered until the Supreme Court rules on the case.

Congress has tried to play fast-and-loose with the whole situation. First lawmakers prohibited the Park Service from spending federal dollars to remove the display. Next, they designated the Mojave Cross site a national memorial similar to the Washington Monument. And finally, the Republican-led Congress tried to transfer one acre of land around the cross to private hands, which would resolve the problem.

A San Francisco, California-based appeals court turned that offer down. Naturally, you could see how silly that would be; the exchange "would leave a little donut hole of land with a cross in the midst of a vast federal preserve" the court said.

In reality, Buono doesn't care if the Mojave Cross monument is there, as long as it is not a religious symbol. Once again, it would seem, that after 75 years, the monument should just be allowed to stay put. What do you readers think?

Watch a video on the case.

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