Americans’ understanding of the controversial and potentially landmark Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross Case (Buono v. Salazar) pending before the Supreme Court continues to be misinformed by the media’s perpetuation of an ACLU lie that will not die – the “Sherpa San Harold Horpa” hoax that the case arose not because of the presence of a cross, but because the National Park Service had discriminatorily refused to allow a Buddhist symbol to be established near the memorial.

The true facts of how the case arose were stated as “uncontroverted material facts” in the U.S. District Court opinion that is under Supreme Court review:

“The controversy surrounding the cross surfaced in 1999, when NPS [National Park Service] received a letter from an individual who identified himself as ‘Sherpa San Harold Horpa’ of Jensen, Utah. The person who sent the letter under the alias ‘Sherpa San Harold Horpa’ is also known to [ACLU plaintiff Frank] Buono as Herman R. Hoops (‘Hoops’), a retired NPS employee and long-time acquaintance of Buono. Hoops requested permission from NPS to erect a ‘stupa’ (a dome-shaped Buddhist shrine) on a rock outcrop at a trail head located near the cross.” (Buono v. Norton, 212 F. Supp. 2d 1202, 1205-1206 (C.D. Cal., 2002), cited for “details” on the background of the case in its opinion, Buono v. Kempthorne, at 527 F.3d 758, fn 1.)

Thus, the genesis of this entire, 10-year-long, fanatical Establishment of Religion Clause attack by the ACLU, which has become the Taliban of American Liberal Secularism, on a solitary cross at a memorial established by veterans to honor veterans in 1934 in the remote desert 11 miles off of the highway (one has to drive to it to be offended by it), was a hoax concocted by ACLU’s “offended observer” plaintiff, former Mojave Preserve Assistant Superintendent Frank Buono. Buono now lives in Oregon more than 1,000 miles away from the cross he wants the Supreme Court to destroy, because the sight of it “offends him.” He used his “long-time acquaintance” Herman R. Hoops, NPS retiree, using the “alias” of “Sherpa San Harold Horpa,” to create the illusion of actual discrimination against Buddhists.

Notwithstanding that the Court’s own published statement of the true facts has been available to editors and reporters since 2002, the media – with the almost singular exception of – continue to perpetuate the hoax of anti-Buddhist discrimination at the memorial without ever referencing the alleged victim, the fictitious “Sherpa San Harold Horpa.”

The New York Times, on the very day of oral argument in the U.S. Supreme Court, Oct. 7, 2009, perpetuated the hoax in an editorial calling on the Supreme Court to destroy the cross – even though Congress had passed legislation for a land swap that would put the veterans memorial on private land in veterans’ hands, which the Times condemned as mere “window dressing.”

The Times asserted in its editorial: “In 1999, the National Park Service denied a request by an individual to place a Buddhist memorial in the area. … By allowing the Christian cross and not symbols of other faiths on federal land, the government was favoring one religion over others.”

The Los Angeles Times, CNN and Associated Press also all published, before and after the Court’s oral argument, the allegation that the case began when NPS denied an application to set up a Buddhist symbol near the memorial. Not one reported that the “individual” applicant involved was in fact ACLU plaintiff Buono’s phony crony, Herman R. Hoops, using the concocted Buddhist-sounding moniker “Sherpa San Harold Horpa.”

Further, although I provided both the N.Y. Times and L.A. Times with the District Court’s own statement of the facts regarding “Sherpa San Harold Horpa,” neither acted to correct their reporting so as not to mislead the public.

Similarly, neither the ACLU nor ACLU’s lead attorney in the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial case, Peter Eliasberg, in the seven years since the District Court’s published statement of “uncontroverted facts” regarding “Sherpa San Harold Horpa,” has acted to correct the media’s misleading reporting nor repudiated the hoax.

What is at stake in the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Case in the Supreme Court is whether 300 million Americans shall have the right to choose how they desire to honor their war dead and other veterans in their communities; or whether a veto power over such decisions shall be held by the ACLU and individuals who claim only that they are “offended” by the sight of a cross or other symbols of a religious aspect at a memorial honoring veterans.

That is why the Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion and so many other veterans organizations, representing millions of American veterans of all races, colors and creeds, are fighting the ACLU’s attacks at the Mojave Desert and Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorials.

Constitutional jurisprudence on the Establishment of Religion Clause by the Supreme Court, which may affect millions of Americans in general and veterans in particular – and the public’s understanding of the true nature and facts of a case and controversy pitting the ACLU on one side and millions of veterans on the other – should not be shaped or be influenced by the media’s perpetuation of the ACLU’s “Sherpa San Harold Horpa” hoax of anti-Buddhist discrimination at the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial.




Rees Lloyd, a veteran and longtime California civil rights attorney, is a former ACLU of So. Cal. staff attorney who is now the director of the Defense of Veterans Memorials Project of The American Legion Department of California and the Alliance Defense Fund, appearing amicus curiae in opposition to the ACLU in the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial case (Buono v. Salazar) in the U.S. Supreme Court.

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