The Mojave Cross encased in plywood to prevent people from seeing the symbol, before it was torn down by vandals
The California department of the nation’s largest veterans organization has filed a lawsuit against federal authorities, demanding the Obama administration obey a congressional order permitting the Veterans of Foreign Wars to maintain the Mojave Memorial Cross.
The Cross, originally erected by veterans in 1934, had stood as the country’s only national monument dedicated specifically to World War I veterans, until a lawsuit brought against it in 2001 resulted not only in legal controversy over “the separation of church and state,” but also the courts ordering the Cross be shrouded in a plywood box so it couldn’t be seen.
In 2002, Congress passed an act that would have transferred the land the Cross stood upon to the VFW to alleviate First Amendment concerns. And even though the Supreme Court last year affirmed the constitutionality of the transfer, the administration has yet to carry through.
Furthermore, less than two weeks after the Supreme Court ruling last year, vandals tore down and stole the Cross, leaving little more than an empty hole in the ground.
The administration has so far both refused to permit the Cross’ reconstruction and declined to answer an appeal sent by a coalition of concerned citizens, veterans groups and religious and political leaders, asking President Obama for help in restoring the memorial.
“The way our government has treated the veterans in this case is a disgrace to their service and dedication,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of Liberty Institute, which is representing the VFW Department of California and VFW Post 385 in their lawsuit. “Members of the VFW and those this Memorial represents paid for this land with their own blood, sweat, and tears.”
The VFW had previously requested to intervene in the legal wrangling over the Cross, but the Obama administration joined with the American Civil Liberties Union in opposing the intervention. The VFW’s request was then denied.
“This is our land, our memorial and we want it back,” said James Rowoldt, state adjutant/quartermaster of the VFW Department of California, in a statement. “To deny the veterans a chance to defend our own is to continue to dishonor those for whom the Memorial stands.”
Now, rather than just asking to intervene in the case, the VFW has filed its own suit against the Obama administration, demanding the transfer of the land as Congress ordered in 2002.
“The VFW has repeatedly asked the government to restore the Memorial to its status quo, but the government has refused to do so,” the lawsuit states. “Permitting the Memorial to remain its current state, which is the result of the actions of lawless vandals, is deeply offensive and disrespectful to the veterans the Memorial was intended to honor.”
Liberty Institute has also created a video explaining the case:
Liberty Institute has set also up a Put the Cross Back website to coordinate information about the case, generate support and lobby for a solution.