The Mojave Cross encased in plywood to prevent people from seeing the symbol, before it was torn down by vandals
Five months ago a veterans memorial was vandalized and a historic cross was stolen from the United States World War I memorial in the Mojave Desert, and now a broad coalition of veterans’ families, political leaders and community members are sending President Obama another request for help having it restored.
A first request was ignored, they report.
Following the vandalism and theft of the cross, a multitude of community members called for it to be replaced, only to be told by the National Park Service that only the original stolen cross legally was allowed to be placed at the memorial.
The theft of the cross is considered a federal crime under the Veterans Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act of 2003.
Veterans at that time appealed to President Obama, sending a letter signed by scores of concerned citizens, the largest veterans groups in the country, religious and political leaders, asking for help in restoring the memorial.
But there was no response.
So this week, another letter was sent to Obama – with support from numerous individuals from varying backgrounds.
The cross had been the target of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union that demanded it be taken down. Earlier this year, however, the Supreme Court ruled that was not necessary. The case was returned to a lower court for a resolution.
However, almost immediately, a vandal cut down the steel cross and stole it, authorities reported.
Then the National Park Service and Department of Justice declined to provide a means of restoring the memorial, essentially giving cross critics their wishes even though the Supreme Court affirmed its existence.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy declared that the Mojave Memorial Cross, “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.”
Signatories of the new letter to Obama include former Sen. Rick Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, two Medal of Honor recipients, retired veterans ranging up to and including major generals, business leaders and many more.
Santorum, founder of the Congressional Working Group on Religious Freedom, contrasted Obama’s vocal support of the Ground Zero mosque with his inaction over the stolen war memorial cross, according to FamilySecurityMatters.org.
“Freedom of religion and conscience is the trunk from which all other branches of freedom on our great tree of liberty get their life. Mr. Obama needs to demonstrate to the American people that he represents Americans of all faiths and especially the veterans who protect our God-given liberties, including our religious freedom. If President Obama can speak up for a controversial mosque at Ground Zero, why is he silent about replacing the stolen World War I Mojave Memorial Cross in the California desert?”
Carol Taber, the president of FamilySecurityMatters.org, promised to remain vigilant in the fight to have the cross restored to the memorial.
“We will not rest until our nation’s sole federal war memorial honoring those who perished in WWI is restored to its original, 76-year-old resting place. Not now, not ever,” Taber said.
The cross originally was erected by veterans more than seven decades ago, but it was challenged for being on land that was acquired by the government. In 2002, Congress passed a land transfer statute that essentially traded to the veterans the one acre surrounding the Mojave Desert War Memorial for five acres elsewhere in the Mojave National Preserve that were annexed by the government.
Prompted by a challenge to the memorial’s existence, a district court ruling halted the transfer. The move was affirmed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But in April, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the lower courts and returned the case for further work.
Only days after the high court ruled that the memorial cross could remain, vandals tore it down. It has remained in that vandalized state, officials said.
Meanwhile, officials confirm a reward of $125,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for vandalizing the cross.
There is a special Don’t Tear Me Down website to coordinate efforts to preserve the memorial.
WND reported in April when the U.S. Supreme Court released its opinion that effectively raised the bar for those who express an “offense” because of the Christian faith. The opinion said the cross could remain.
In the majority decision delivered by Kennedy, the court said, “The goal of avoiding governmental endorsement does not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm. 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. The Constitution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion’s role in society.”
According to the Alliance Defense Fund, an organization that has worked on the issue, the focal point of the case was whether someone who has suffered no harm but only claims being “offended” can sue to destroy religious references on public monuments and memorials.
The cross, originally set in place by World War I veterans in 1934, is the only World War I memorial designated a national monument by Congress.
Liberty Institute has created a video explaining the case:
Liberty Institute has set up a Put the Cross Back website to coordinate information about the case, generate support and lobby for a solution.