Sunday, May 2, 2010

One War Memorial Saved From Desecration By the Supreme Court

The eight-foot cross pictured on the left has been covered with plywood for 10 years (image on right) at the pleasure of the ACLU because one man claimed to be offended by it, not because it is a cross (the plaintiff is Roman Catholic), but because it is a cross standing on public land. In this individual's view, this cross is not a war memorial erected in the middle of the vast Mohave Desert by local veterans of WWI, but instead is a most offensive indication that war heroes of the past could not envision a future time in the United States in which they could not erect a simple, unadorned cross on land for which they had fought and shed blood and for which many of their fellow soldiers had died.

The memorial cross sits on a rocky knoll called Sunrise Rock, where it was erected in1934. It is believed that the veterans chose that site because the image of a doughboy (a WWI soldier) can be seen in the face of the rock. To answer the concern that one man living in a different state might drive through that section of the 1.6 million acre desert and be offended by the sight of that memorial cross because it sat on a piece of land owned by the National Park Service, Congress went to the trouble of ordering the land transferred to the VFW in a land exchange.

The plaintiff and the ACLU refused to accept that compromise and wanted the cross torn down before the land was transferred. Tearing down the cross was important enough to the ACLU to take the question to the Supreme Court. I Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel for the Law Center, believes he knows why:
The ACLU hates crosses as much as vampires hate crosses or the daylight. Despite their claims to the contrary, this case is part of the ACLU’s national agenda to incrementally remove every cross on public land. Their guiding principle is "out of sight out of mind." 
Last October, the U.S. Supreme court heard oral argument in defense of the cross in a brief filed by the Thomas More Law Center. The brief was filed on behalf of Rear Admiral Jeremiah Denton and the families of two marine majors killed in action in Iraq, Michael D. Martino and Gerald Bloomfield, III.

This week, the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision to let the cross stand. The majority opinion was that the land transfer was a reasonable resolution to the problem, and the Supremes sent the case back to the lower court for tidy-up to facilitate the land transfer.  Chief Justice John Roberts reasoned that the government should sell the land to the VFW with the cross still standing on it, and skip the "empty ritual" of tearing down the cross, which would convey "disrespect for those the cross was seen as honoring."

As reported by Bob Unruh of WorldNetDaily, the Thomas More Law Center is viewing the Supreme Court decision as a raising of bar of degree of claimed "offense" that can end in religious images being removed from public places.
In the majority opinion delivered by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court said, "The goal of avoiding governmental endorsement does not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm. . . . The Constitution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion’s role in society."
Kennedy was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito. Roberts and Alito filed additional concurring opinions. Antonin Scalia filed a concurring opinion that was joined by Clarence Thomas. Opposing the ruling were John Stevens, Ruth Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer.  
The Mohave Desert memorial cross has been saved, but only by a slim margin, a 5-4 vote in which even the majority did not fully agree. Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, which filed an amicus brief in defense of the cross, offered words of warning:
Passive displays like the World War I Memorial, the Ten Commandments, Nativity scenes, or statements like the National Motto do not force anyone to participate in a religious exercise and, thus, do not establish religion. . . . If the courts returned to the original understanding of the Constitution, then these First Amendment religion cases would be easy. The next Justice on the Supreme Court must be committed to upholding the rule of law and the original intent of the Constitution.
Obama will be nominating a new Supreme Court justice soon. Americans who value religious liberty must make our voices heard.

For a video showing the real meaning of the Mohave Desert Cross for the veterans who have been protecting it, go here.

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