A cross erected in the remote southern California desert by U.S. veterans in memory of their lost World War I buddies has become the focal point for an effort by the American Civil Liberties Union to eradicate references to Christianity from America’s heritage.
But now a campaign has been assembled to fight back, to honor the veterans who have kept the nation safe for generations and to endorse the right of the public to acknowledge those efforts.
Liberty Legal Institute has launched a new website called Don’t Tear Me Down that describes the attack on the cross in the desert, which now needs a favorable ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court or faces demolition.
The Mojave Desert Memorial Cross in the Mojave National Preserve has stood for more than 75 years in honor of America’s lost soldiers. It was erected in 1934 by World War I veterans who saw the image of a doughboy in the shadows on the stone hillside and wanted a place to remember their lost trench-mates from the big war.
But the ACLU, representing a man from Oregon who has alleged he might drive on a desert road in California and might be offended by the cross, has won lower court rulings that the cross must cease to exist.
The Don’t Tear Me Down campaign is intended to let the public know of the attack on America’s heritage and generate a groundswell of support for the cross. Liberty Legal has announced a news conference tomorrow to formally launch the effort.
WND reported earlier when the U.S. Supreme Court decided to rule in the case.
The Mojave cross
Attorneys with the Liberty Legal Institute, which calls the case a “microcosm” of the trend of hostility towards veterans’ memorials in the U.S, say the impact will reach many more memorials than just the one in California. They earlier set up a SaveOurMemorials.com website to warn about the situation.
Besides the Mojave Desert cross, which the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered destroyed, there also has been pending dispute over the Mt. Soledad memorial where an atheist sued for the removal of a cross image, a recent attempt by a religious group called Summum that could have forced the removal of donated Ten Commandments monuments in Utah, an attempt to take the Ten Commandments away from a historic location in Texas, and the order to remove a Ten Commandments reference in Kentucky.
In the Mojave Desert cross dispute, Liberty Legal filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and others seeking permission for the cross to remain because the land on which it stands originally had been owned by the VFW, which donated it to the government in the 1930s.
The organization responded to the court ruling by donating five acres of land to the government and submitting a request that it be allowed to retrieve the monument. A court shot down the plan.
“It is bad enough to say that the veterans’ memorial is unconstitutional, but it is outrageous to say that the government cannot give the monument back to the people who spilled their blood and put it there in the first place,” said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel of Liberty Legal Institute and attorney for the veterans groups.
The Mojave cross, encased in plywood to prevent people from seeing the symbol
The cross was covered in a bag when the court’s ruling was released, and later encased in a plywood box so that no one could inadvertently see the representation of Christianity, officials said.
According to the campaign, “If they win and succeed in tearing down this monument, what’s next? Imagine what could happen at the Arlington National Cemetery. Will they put bags over all the crosses that mark the graves of our fallen heroes? … We believe America should remember and honor her veterans; and were taking our case to the U.S. Supreme Court to tell the ACLU that they can’t tear down our freedom!”
According to a video on the Don’t Tear Me Down campaign website, the veterans of World War I chose the rock because of the image of a doughboy that appears in the rock’s creased face under certain light conditions.
Veteran Henry Sandoz and his wife, Wanda, have volunteered their time for years to keep up the site.
The campaign warns, “Across America, our precious war memorials are under attack by liberal groups such as the ACLU. These left-wing extremists want to REMOVE ALL public tributes to the brave men and women who gave their lives for freedom simply because these memorials use Scripture, crosses and other religious symbols.”
The outcome of the court case “will determine if we can continue to honor and respect our veterans, or if we must wipe their memories from the public square. If not overturned, this case will impact every veterans’ memorial and those they were built to remember,” the organization said.
“This is a critical case that will once again put the spotlight on the constitutionality of religious displays and the proper role of the government and its actions,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the the American Center for Law and Justice,.
“The fact is that the land transfer in this case is appropriate and constitutional. There’s nothing wrong with the government transferring property containing symbols with religious significance to private parties. We’re hopeful that the high court will conclude that the long-standing display of this cross does not create a constitutional crisis and that the action by the federal government represented a constitutionally-sound solution,” Sekulow said.
In a commentary on WND, Rees Lloyd, a longtime California civil rights attorney, veteran and director of the Defense of Veterans Memorials Project, said the same issues also were involved in the longrunning Mt. Soledad Memorial case.
Mt. Soledad cross near San Diego
Lloyd said judges who are not accountable to the people should not be able to overrule what people want. In the Mt. Soledad case, not only was the memorial approved by voters, Congress and the president agreed to protect it, only to be overruled by a single judge.
In the 17-year-long Mt. Soledad case, a judge eventually said the veterans memorial near San Diego is constitutional and can remain.
“When the cross is considered in the context of the larger memorial and especially the numerous other secular elements, the primary effect is patriotic and nationalistic, not religious,” wrote U.S. District Judge Larry Alan Burns.
“The Court finds the memorial at Mt. Soledad, including its Latin cross, communicates the primarily non-religious messages of military service, death and sacrifice,” he said.