Thursday, May 20, 2010

Caretakers Ready To Erect New Cross On Sunrise Rock When Replacement Appears [UPDATED]

Fox News reported yesterday that the long-time caretakers of the Mojave Desert Veterans' Memorial have constructed an exact replica of the 7-foot cross that was recently stolen from the site and are ready to put it up if the Department of Justice approves. However, on Wednesday night, according to another Fox News report, a different cross reappeared on Sunrise Rock. The National Park Service is evaluating the Cross to see if it is the original one that has been returned, or a new one. That may determine whether it stays. God and Country blog reports on the latest developments.

Congress attempted to transfer the land on which the cross was constructed to the VFW to avoid an Establishment Clause challenge. In a fragmented decision last month, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the challenge to the land transfer back to the lower courts. (See prior posting.) While the cross was still missing, Hiram Sasser, the director of litigation for Liberty Legal Institute, which is representing the VFW, said the theft may have made it simpler to resolve the case on remand. He said: "If there's no cross there, does that mean that the land transfer goes through, it becomes property of the VFW, and we can put the cross back up?" Justice Roberts, in his concurring opinion last month in Salazar v. Buono, said:
At oral argument, respondent’s counsel stated that it "likely would be consistent with the injunction" for the Government to tear down the cross, sell the land to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and return the cross to them, with the VFW immediately raising the cross again.... I do not see how it can make a difference for the Government to skip that empty ritual and do what Congress told it to do—sell the land with the cross on it.
Meanwhile, on its website Liberty Legal Institute-- in an appeal that seems at odds with its litigation director's theory-- is asking for contributions to help reinstall the memorial on Sunrise Rock, apparently while the litigation proceeds and before the land is formally transferred to VFW. That appeal may now be unnecessary, depending on the Park Service's decision on the cross that has now reappeared.