Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Supreme Court to Rule on Mojave Cross Case

The Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of an eight-foot-tall cross in the Mojave National Preserve, which was erected as a spiritual monument to honor our fallen soldiers. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Mohave Cross

In a case that could reshape the doctrine of separation of church and state, the Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether a cross to honor fallen soldiers can stand in a national preserve in California.

The case will give the Roberts court its first chance to rule directly on the 1st Amendment's ban on "an establishment of religion."

In the last two decades, the justices have been closely divided on whether religious symbols, such as the Ten Commandments or a depiction of Christ's birth, can be displayed on public property.

Four years ago, then-Justice Sandra Day O'Connor cast a fifth and deciding vote against the display of the Ten Commandments in a Kentucky courthouse. She said such a public display of a religious message violated the 1st Amendment because it amounted to a government endorsement of religion.

In dissent, the court's conservatives said religious displays on public land generally do not violate the 1st Amendment, since no one is forced to listen to a religious message or participate in a religious event.

A year later, O'Connor retired and was replaced by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., President Bush's second appointee, who could form a new majority on religion.

At issue is an eight-foot-tall cross in the Mojave National Preserve in San Bernardino County. A smaller wooden cross was first erected by the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1934 and was originally maintained as a war memorial by the National Park Service.

The American Civil Liberties Union objected to the cross and filed a suit on behalf of Frank Buono, a Catholic and former Park Service employee. The suit noted that the government had denied a request to have a Buddhist shrine erected near the cross.

Two years ago, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the ACLU and declared the cross an "impermissible governmental endorsement of religion."

Congress had intervened to save the cross. It ordered the Interior Department to transfer to the VFW one acre of land where the cross stood. The 9th Circuit judges were unswayed, however.

Bush administration lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court last fall and said the "seriously misguided decision" would require the government "to tear down a cross that has stood without incident for 70 years as a memorial to fallen service members."

The government also questioned Buono's standing to challenge the cross, since he lives in Oregon and suffers no obvious harm because of the Mojave cross.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, the VFW, American Legion and other veterans groups said the 9th Circuit's ruling, if allowed to stand, could trigger legal challenges to the display of crosses at Arlington National Cemetery and elsewhere.

The court said it had voted to hear the case, now relabeled Salazar vs. Buono. Arguments will be heard in October, and Obama administration lawyers will be in charge of defending the presence of the cross.


Dave said...

"...and Obama administration lawyers will be in charge of defending the presence of the cross."

That will be more than a little interesting.


Anonymous said...

Resurrection Day, April 12, 2009. The day was incredibly perfect, warm, not freezing nor hot. We went before a covered cross, read from Matthew, prayed, cried. Standing before the box covered cross I just couldn't believe that I was not allowed to view it. It is forbidden for me to look at a cross. Does anyone really understand the impact of that? Nor am I allowed to look at a memorial dedicated to fallen soldiers. We met other people just as enraged as we were. Wondering how the country we live in, founded as a republic, just stomped out our rights and protections. My only reply was a quote, "For evil to prevail, it takes good men to do nothing." Surely there are good men/women out there. Where are you?! Debbie Foster

Anonymous said...

This is an absolute OUTRAGE! I first heard the satory on Fox News this AM and had to write someone to say that the
ACLU has gone TOO far this time! I am a Christian and the Cross means everything to me, BUT...do they not know that the Cross has for centuries been used as a memorial sign all over the world for the fallen of war?? It galls me that they have nothing better to do than be rabble rousers and stir up much ado about NOTHING! I wish that those who have such strong feelings about our country and the Judeo-Christian values we have always stood proudly for would just go to another country and be happy there! We as Americans and Christians have got to take a stand NOW to save and preserve what dignity and respect our values have. Speak up NOW America!!

Anonymous said...

First off let me say that this is completely ludicrous. To tear this cross down is not only wrong but a disgrace to the men who died for this country. What's next? Going to Arlington and tearing down the gravestone's that are cross's? Or Stars of David? Second of all like most issues people have a problem with.. IT DOES NOT AFFECT YOU IN ANY WAY....AT ALL. Tearing it down spits on those who gave their lives, you have no right to remove their memorial and if you believe you do you are scum not worthy of the freedom you have. End of story.