OK, Barry, it took a while – more than a few posts – but I am pleased you finally articulated your opposition to bringing back the Fairness Doctrine.

I only hope you can agree with me on this one.

The Supreme Court today agreed to take an important religion case out of California where a cross has been displayed in the Mojave Desert for since the 1930’s.  The Supreme Court said it would hear the California case where a federal appeals court has ordered the removal of the cross, rejecting a move by Congress to transfer the ownership of the land upon which the cross sits to a private party.

Barry, I am sure you’ll agree that this is an important case that will once again put the spotlight on the constitutionality of religious displays and the proper role of the government and its actions. 

This is a case where the Veterans of Foreign Wars erected a cross more than 70 years ago to memorialize fallen service members in a remote area that is now part of a federal preserve.  After the National Park Service denied a request to build a Buddhist shrine near the cross in 1999 and declared its intent to remove the cross, Congress designated the cross and an area of adjoining property as a national World War I memorial. 

A lawsuit was filed challenging the cross and, after the federal district court held that the federal government’s display of the cross violated the Establishment Clause, Congress directed the Department of the Interior to convey one acre of property that included the memorial to the VFW in exchange for a five-acre parcel of equal value.  But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit determined that the cross – and the land transfer – violated the Establishment Clause.

When the appeals court denied the government’s petition to rehear the case, five judges dissented and noted that the Ninth Circuit’s decision was in conflict with decisions of the Seventh Circuit regarding the government’s authority to sell land. The dissenters also stated that the cross has the secular purpose of memorializing fallen soldiers.

The fact is that the land transfer in this case is appropriate and constitutional. There’s nothing wrong – or unconstitutional – with the government transferring property containing symbols with religious significance to private parties. 

We’re preparing an amicus brief to be filed with the Supreme Court on behalf of the government’s position.  And it is our hope that the high court will conclude that the long-standing display of this cross should stay in place and that the action by the federal government represented a constitutionally-sound solution.

Let me guess, Barry, you want the cross to go?

More from Beliefnet and our partners