Friday, May 21, 2010

A week after a cross was stolen from a Mojave Desert war memorial that played a key role in a recent Supreme Court decision, a different cross was discovered early Thursday morning at the same site.

The National Park Service said in a press release Thursday afternoon that the replica cross would be removed.

Late Thursday, Mojave National Preserve spokeswoman Linda Slater told reporters in California that the new cross is illegal and must come down.

Still no information has been found about who placed the replica on the memorial site. “We’re scratching our heads over this,” said Joe Davis, national spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Mr. Davis said the caretakers of the memorial, Henry and Wanda Sandoz, had made an exact copy of the cross that was stolen, but that he had no leads on who replaced the cross. He said VFW supports the memorial but was not involved in the return of the cross.

“We’re in anticipation of reinstalling the memorial as it was intended, whether that’s the original or a replica,” Mr. Davis said. “We support the memorial as it was originally intended in 1934 by the World War I veterans.”

Kelly Shackelford, president and chief executive officer of the Liberty Institute, which represents the caretakers of the cross, agreed. He said in a statement Thursday that “every day the memorial does not go back up is a day too long and a disgrace. It disrespects the memory of the WWI veterans who put it up, every fallen soldier, and every veteran in this country.”

The Mojave cross has been embroiled in a decade of legal disputes over whether it constituted an establishment of religion. After courts ruled that the cross was an unconstitutional religious symbol, Congress transferred the plot of the land on which the cross stands to private ownership.

In April, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to strike down Congress’ actions and ordered a trial court to reconsider the issues in light of the land transfer. Because of the ongoing legal activity, the transfer has been delayed and the cross is on what is still considered public land.

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