On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

Why do they despise America’s crosses?

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The disputed Utah crosses

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff asked the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday to intervene in a case deciding the constitutionality of memorial crosses honoring fallen state troopers. 

Shurtleff requested that the high court issue an opinion on the case after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 14 crosses bearing the name of a fallen state troopers violate the U. S. Constitution.

Prior to the 10th Circuit Court’s ruling, the court had upheld the cross as a non-religious display for fallen employees.

“With two simple lines, the highway crosses remind us of the ultimate sacrifice made by troopers while trying to protect us,” said Shurtleff. “The crosses only establish a trooper died in the line of duty.”

The lawsuit against the 12-foot crosses was filed by American Atheists, Inc. in 2005. The group sued the Utah Highway Patrol Association, arguing that the cross is a universal symbol of Christianity and that the crosses’ placement on government property – highway right-of-way – violates the Constitution.

The Mojave Cross before the vandalism

Meanwhile, a $125,000 reward has been posted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and an anonymous veteran for the return of an 8-foot cross that has stood on top of a 30-foot rock outcropping in the Mojave Desert for 75 years. 

The cross had been the object of an eight-year battle that made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court last year. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the cross could stand.

The cross covered up by the National Park Service

Within hours of the ruling, the cross disappeared. The National Park Service, which had covered up the cross with a wooden box, claims that vandals had stolen the cross.

A veterans group that had spent millions of dollars to finally win approval for the cross by the Supreme Court then put up a duplicate cross – which the park service removed, claiming that the duplicate was not the historic cross protected by the court decision. 

Park rangers at the Mojave National Preserve removed the replica replacement cross – declaring it was not covered by the Supreme Court decision. 

The landmark ruling protecting the Mojave Desert cross was hailed as a severe defeat for the American Civil Liberties Union and other atheist groups attempting to remove all Christian symbols from the American landscape. 

The Mojave Cross as it looked for decades

Now, allowing the vandals to win is unacceptable, said spokesmen for a number of Christian legal groups fighting to overturn the National Park Service’s refusal to allow a replacement.

“It’s appalling that vandals would remove a cross that has survived a constitutional challenge at the nation’s highest court,” declared Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ. “What’s even more troubling is the fact that the federal government is opposed to permitting a replica cross to be put in place. We’re calling on the Department of Justice to take the appropriate action without delay and permit the replica cross to be put up on Sunrise Rock.”

“This was a legal fight that a vandal just made personal to 50 million veterans, military personnel and their families,” said VFW National Commander Thomas J. Tradewell, Sr.

Veterans erected the cross in 1934 with a plaque stating, “The Cross, Erected in Memory of the Dead of All Wars.” Another plaque read, “Erected 1934 by Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars, Death Valley Post 2884.”

In 2001, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of Frank Buono, a former National Park Services employee. A district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the cross and the land transfer violated the Establishment Clause and ordered it removed.

The cross was covered with a canvas bag, then a plywood box. On July 24, 2002, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California found the presence of the cross on federal land to be a violation of separation of church and state and ordered  it removed.

In 2003, the U.S. Congress moved to preserve the cross by enacting a one-acre land exchange that transferred the cross from federal to private ownership. Congressman Jerry Lewis (R-California) inserted the land exchange as an amendment to the 2004 Defense Appropriations Act.

On April 5, 2005, the very same U.S. District Court for the Central District of California held that the land exchange had been a “sham” amounting to an “attempt by the government to evade the permanent injunction enjoining the display of the Latin cross” on federal land.

On April 28, 2010, six of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices wrote separate opinions in the case. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced the court’s decision and gave his opinion, which Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr. supported.

Justice John Paul Stevens dissented along with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer.

“Americans want memorials to our nation’s fallen heroes protected,” said American Defense Fund Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “Congress was doing just that when it transferred the land under this memorial to the veterans’ group that cares for it.”

Looking at the pictures of the site where the cross once was, VFW spokesman Joe Davis said he was amazed at the serious planning and execution that went into the theft.

The cutting of the thick, metal pipes set in concrete was a serious undertaking, he says. When he first saw photos of the vandalized cross site, Davis says he was “in shock and disbelief. How could anyone have the audacity to tear down a war memorial to the dead?”

Davis says that the original constructors erected the cross out of respect for Americans who died during World War I.

“Three of the highest medals in our armed forces use the cross – the Distinguished Service Cross, the Air Force Cross, and the Navy Cross – and no one has ever returned one of those,” says Davis. “This memorial meant a lot to those veterans.” 

A number of Christian legal groups, including the ACLJ and the Liberty Legal Institute have protested the park service’s refusal to allow anyone to replace the stolen cross that has long stood on an outcropping known as Sunrise Rock.

“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,” commented Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel. 

Ranger Linda Slater, a spokeswoman for the Mojave National Preserve, said a maintenance worker spotted the replacement replica cross, which was a half-inch larger than the original one, she said.

Slater said the new cross wasn’t covered by the Supreme Court ruling, so it was removed.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Maria

    It is so sad that these things happen in the United States. I pray for our country and I believe it is going the wrong way. The cross belongs there if it is a replica let it stay there until the original one can be found. These people want to do what is wrong and want us to approve of it. The Lord is coming real soon and that is what we have to look forward to.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment June

    It is so troubling that people have to push their beliefs on others. Whey don’t they just turn their head and look the other way instead of taking down crosses, etc. They, the athiests, are so redicules. And the ACLU is so redicules in their attitude for their beliefs or ability to mess up anything they deem to be religious. Most of which are only symbals that people want to believe in. A cross is just that, a cross! They make it out to be something that it isn’t. As far as the seperation between church and state, they, the ACLU really get carried away. They need to be talked to. Their attitude is attrocious. They should be gotten rid of.

  • http://kennybeal.com kenny beal

    Separation of Church and State laws were designed to keep any one religion from taking over our country. Thats it. The idea that by placing symbols on public property will magically lead to a take over by a religion is stupid.

    I believe when a particular religions values are in alignment with our countries values/laws, their symbols should be allowed to be displayed on public property as validating support of our country, and when not, they should not.

    What does the symbol represent? That what matters. The symbols in question HERE are not placed by religions, but by people, like you and me, who want to show gratitude. Its time we go beyond the idea that every time someone erects a cross it is automatically a church/state problem – that’s stupid.

    The idea that all religions ARE treated the same is also STUPID. In fact they are not treated the same legally or otherwise, no matter how much people here want to groups all religions together under some kind of single veil.

    If you call yourself a religion and your beliefs violate laws of the land, you will not be allowed to be a “legal” religion, and btw, relistically, people like you and me will not tolerate it’s existence you either. Just you try to start a religion based on HATE. You’ll end up doing your thing in some closet somewhere, or in an isolated place on the planet. Because the State decides what religions are legal or not, the whole separation law begins to unravel.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Your Name

    Too bad the ACLU has not spoken out against ISLAM where church and state are ONE! Wonder why they haven’t? Do they support sharia law? ACLU is a devious, dangerous organization. Look at its origins…Look at its founder. These ACLU-type thinkers are deceitful, intolerant and narrow-minded…(and these are their good points)!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment TERRY HARMON

    It is so upsetting that a handfull of Americans can complain about the cross that represents the death of American troops. I guess these so called non beieveing in the bible or the cross were Jesus hung and died for our sins ,but for our military veterans from WW2 and later in wars that they did not have to go and loose their lives for some who hate the cross and anything having to do with God.

    Now these folks may or mayever had a family member die in battle for the rest of us. If you lost a loveone to war wouldn’t you want a cross at their grave.I like others voice our thoughts about this and it is very heartbreaking and yet these people who think it is about seperation of the church and the state.It is not that all.I have visited the cematary that my fatherinlaw is buried and their are crosses for the fallen troops. I haven’t seen anyone taking the crosses up and destorey them.There is crosses all around the USA folks respect our fallen troops. And there are many more crosses out there. Now this one has me so angry to the fact of going to tell these unbelievers that the crosses are put up for the people of this country to one to respect, to love ,and remember then for their service to this country.

    The so called athiests are in fear of the cross then they have a right to it,but leave the rest of us alone. Jesus is returning so soon that it will be here before we know it. All the lawyers of ACLU AND OTHERS LIKE THEM ARE GOING TO SO SORRY that they get left behind.

  • http://lookuptoGod Brenda

    They will believe one day when they go to Hell.We as Christens have rights too AND I for one am offended for their sticking their nose in our business but it doesn’t seem to matter about anyone else who believes. But of course they are of the devil and he always wants his way the only way. I pray they get their selves right with God before they die because stop drop n roll don’t work in hell.People wake up there is a God and I see his works everyday. Get right with God or burn.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Arylos

    We need to File Lawsuits against the Atheists Group and the ACLU for VIOLATING OUR FREEDOM OF RELIGION in that they are RESTRICTING THE FREE WORSHIP THEREOF due to their SATANIST UPBRINGINGS

    Congress shall pass NO LAWS respecting the establishment of a religion NOR RESTRICTING THE FREE WORSHIP THEREOF.


  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mary

    It is so sad, that just a few, alway’s try to ruin it for the majority….I feel so bad for the relatives of the fallen soldiers, it must be like a slap in the face. What better symybol than the cross to honor our fallen. may God forgive the ALCU for there blindness..The cross doesn’t change anyones religon, It’s sort of a thank you for giving your all. I long for our country to once again honor God.. “If my people which are called by name will humble themselves and pray, then I will hear from Heaven and heal there land” A quote from Gods word..

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Hilda

    I think the reason they (ACLU,etc)protest so much is that underneath all the noise, they could be wrong, and they are sfraid to face it.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment becky olson


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