Supreme Court to begin hearings in Mojave Cross case on October 07th

Voices from a battle in the Mojave Desert will be heard in the nation's capital next week when the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in Salazar v. Buono.

The case concerns the Mojave Cross, northwest of Needles in the Mojave National Preserve.

The original cross was erected in 1934 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars as a monument to veterans of World War I. It was designated a national war memorial, one of 49 so-recognized by the U.S. Congress.

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing a National Park Service employee (Buono), brought suit contending, essentially, that the cross is inappropriate as it only recognizes veterans of the Christian faith, and, as it was on federal land, that it violated the First Amendment's separation of church and state clause.

In July of 2002 the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California agreed and ordered the cross removed.

The next year U.S. Congressman Jerry Lewis, whose district includes Needles, inserted a land exchange in the 2004 Defense Appropriations Act which transferred the acre of ground on which the cross stands to private ownership.

In April of 2005, the same court found that transfer was a sham attempt to evade the injunction against display of the cross. Since then, view of the cross has been obstructed, most recently by a plywood box.

In February of 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the matter. Said Lewis at the time, “I am gratified that the U.S.

Supreme Court has agreed to review the case of the Mojave Cross veterans memorial, and I am confident that the justices will see the simple truth that this is an historic site honoring the sacrifices of those who died defending our nation.

“Frankly, I am disappointed that this case has had to go this far, and I am grateful to the American Legion and other veterans groups who have helped ensure that it has maintained widespread support from the American public.”

Soldiers make pilgrimage to Mojave Cross site

By JIM MANIACI, Laughlin Nevada Times

LAUGHLIN - An enthusiastic audience of at least 100 persons gave a half-dozen American soldiers a standing ovation Sept. 17 when they arrived at American Legion Laughlin Post 60 on their way to the Mojave Cross, dedicated to those killed in action in World War I, that was erected more than a half-century before any of them were born.

The embattled plain white 8-foot tall cross - a duplicate of those which grace military cemeteries - is the subject of a precedent-setting case in which the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on Oct. 7 about whether it is an allowable military memorial or, as the American Civil Liberties Union contends, is a symbol violating the First Amendment's forbidding the establishment of a state-sponsored church.

Recently returned from war zones overseas, the six made the pilgrimage from Fort Polk, La., to Laughlin as their last night before seeing the cross on an isolated road in the Mojave National Preserve some 91 miles from Laughlin's military veterans post, according to Roger Reimer, who drove the distance. He is the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 243, which is housed at the American Legion Post where Commander Mitch Roach began the night by saluting the young veterans.

Their leader, Sgt. Weldon J. Kelly of Buna, Texas, told how the crusade got started.

He and Spc. Adam J. Pena of Austin, Texas, read about the case on the Internet and were upset that a veterans memorial was threatened.

The simple desert cross was erected in 1934 by the VFW - 58 years before Kelly was born. He is the oldest of the six; the youngest is age 19.

Posted by imran Saturday, October 3, 2009


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