Judge OKs settlement over Mojave cross on U.S. land

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A federal judge has approved a land-swap settlement of a lawsuit over a remote site in the Mojave National Preserve where war memorial crosses have been erected for decades.

The settlement, announced Tuesday, calls for the site at Sunrise Rock to be turned over to a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Barstow, Calif., in exchange for five acres of donated land.

The National Park Service said it hopes to complete the swap by year’s end, allowing the VFW once more to erect a cross on the site. The most recent permanent cross was stolen, and a replacement was removed to comply with a court injunction.

The land swap was ordered by Congress in 2003, but legal action challenging the cross intervened for years.

The original wooden cross erected in 1934 was later replaced with one made of steel pipes. It was stolen in 2010.

A number of other military memorials on public lands across the country have been challenged in recent years by civil liberty activists and atheists who say they violate the separation of church and state.

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