About 75 years ago, the Veterans of Foreign Wars erected a 5’8″ white cross in the Mojave National Preserve, an area now controlled by the National Park Service out in California’s desert.
Officially known as the “Mojave Memorial Cross,” it was put in place to honor the fallen heroes of World War I. Not everyone is happy with its presence atop Sunrise Rock. For the better part of a decade, this memorial has been the subject of a fierce court battle.
As with most cases dealing with religious liberty and the freedom of public expressions of faith, the ACLU has led the fight for the memorial’s removal. Through the years, their lawyers found sympathetic courts to agree
with them, but the United States Supreme Court finally weighed in on the case.
By a 5-4 vote, Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing a white cross to remain on display in the Mojave Desert. By their narrow ruling, the Supreme Court has technically sent the case back to a lower court for further review. But in so doing, they made it clear they believe the cross should stay.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, said that the lower courts went too far in ordering its removal. “Here one Latin cross in the desert evokes far more than religion,” Justice Kennedy wrote. “It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies are compounded if the fallen are forgotten.”
Justice Kennedy struck a common sense tone throughout his opinion, writing, “The goal of avoiding governmental endorsement [of religion] does not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm.” He added, “A cross by the side of a public highway marking, for instance, the place where a state trooper perished, need not be taken as a statement of governmental support for sectarian beliefs.”
This is a victory for people of faith and for the families whose loved ones rest under the shadow of the white cross. It’s also a victory for common sense and a repudiation of those bent on the radical secularization of our Judeo-Christian nation.
But the story doesn’t end there. This past Sunday night, according to reports, thieves cut the bolts that kept the cross upright and carried it away. Officials are confident the monument would be restored. “While the memorial has been attacked,” said Clarence Hill, a commander of the group who manages the monument, “the fight will continue to ensure that veteran’s memorials will remain sacrosanct.”
The Liberty Institute is offering a $25,000 reward to anyone with information leading to an arrest and conviction. Officials are asking those with information to please contact the Park Service at 760-252-6120.