After a contentious 11-year legal battle, the Mojave Desert Veterans Cross is back home.
Liberty Institute, a religious-liberties law firm, hosted a rededication of the cross on Sunday, a few days after the cross was restored on a one-acre stretch of land in the Mojave Desert. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), The American Legion and the Mojave Cross’ longtime caretakers, Henry and Wanda Sandoz, also participated in the event.
The monument was first erected in the 1930s to honor World War I veterans. In 2001, the Americans Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of an individual claiming the “religious symbol” violates the separation of church and state.
In April, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Timlin authorized a land-transfer deal allowing the government to give the land to the VFW; ,the ACLU has been trying to block the land transfer, even after Congress approved it in 2003.
A federal judge signed a settlement in April ending the ACLU’s lawsuit.
“Now the VFW is the proud owner of a one-acre postage stamp in the middle of the Mojave Preserve,” said Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute’s director of litigation.
Sasser said it’s hard to understand why the ACLU represented someone about a cross in the middle of a desert two hours from Las Vegas.
“I think it just goes to show you the ACLU is going to hunt down every public display of any kind of cross or religious expression, and they’re going to try to eradicate it,” he said.
The ACLU lawsuit went all to the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010, before the justices ruled that the cross does not violate the Constitution. The land transfer was then sent back to the lower court for further review.
The cross has a story of its own: At one point during the litigation, a court ordered it to be covered with a box pending the final outcome of the case. After the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling, vandals stole the eight-foot-cross from where it stood on Sunrise Rock.
In place of the missing cross, the rededication featured a new seven-foot-tall steel cross.
Sasser spoke during Sunday’s rededication ceremony, saying that this Veterans Day marks the conclusion of the fight for the Mojave Veterans Memorial Cross.
“On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the cross rose again like a phoenix under the desert sun as the VFW raised and rededicated the memorial once more,” he told the crowd of nearly 200 people. “The veterans, through their own service and sacrifice for a good greater than themselves, earned this moment.”
The cross is the only World War I memorial designated by Congress as a national monument.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn more about the history of the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross.
Learn more about the continuing attacks on veterans’ memorials that contain religious imagery.
Learn more about Liberty Institute.