Mojave Memorial Cross

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Coordinates: 35°18′53.4″N 115°33′1.4″W / 35.314833°N 115.550389°W / 35.314833; -115.550389

The boarded-up cross in 2006.
The Mojave Cross, is located on private land within the Mojave National Preserve. This photo was taken on April 13, 2013.

The Mojave Memorial Cross is a cross formerly on public land in the Mojave desert that was at the center of the Salazar v. Buono legal case before the U.S. Supreme Court.[1][2][3] The original cross was erected in 1934 to honor those killed in war.[4] The cross has been maintained by volunteers[5] and was reconstructed after being destroyed.[5] It was boarded up after lower court rulings declared it illegal because of separation of church and state constitutional concerns.

On April 28, 2010, the US Supreme Court ruled on Salazar v. Buono in a 5-4 decision sent the case back to a lower court.[6] The high court ruled there was no violation of the separation of church and state when Congress transferred the land surrounding the cross to a veteran's group.[6] Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, "The goal of avoiding governmental endorsement [of religion] does not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm".[7]

On the night of May 9–10, 2010, the cross was cut down and stolen from its place on Sunrise Rock.[8][9][10] National Park Service spokeswoman Linda Slater said a $125,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the thieves. The VFW promised that the memorial would be rebuilt. "This was a legal fight that a vandal just made personal to 50 million veterans, military personnel and their families," said National Commander Thomas J. Tradewell.

In April 2012, a land exchange to remove Sunrise Rock from the Mojave National Preserve was approved by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.[11]

On Veterans Day, November 11, 2012, the cross was rededicated by Henry Sandoz in a ceremony that included more than 100 people..[12]


Location[edit]

The cross is located, on Sunrise Rock, a granite outcropping adjacent to Cima Road about 12 miles south of Interstate 15, and 6 miles north of Cima, California; the trailhead leading to Teutonia Peak is immediately across the road from the rock. The area is a saddle between Cima Dome and the Ivanpah Mountains, both of which are part of the Mojave National Preserve. [13]

History[edit]

The cross was erected in 1934.[5] The current caretakers of the spot were introduced to it by a prospector named John Riley Bembrey, who served as a medic in World War I and was one of the veterans who established the monument.[5]

Theft[edit]

Linda Slater said that the wooden cover which had covered the cross since 2002 was reported missing on May 8, 2010, and that the cross itself had been seen on May 10 but was reported missing on May 11 by rangers who had returned to the location.[14] The theft was condemned by representatives Howard McKeon, Jerry Lewis and Ken Calvert.[14]

The Desert Dispatch was contacted by someone claiming to have a message from the person who removed the cross.[15] The message claimed that the cross had not been damaged or destroyed but moved by a veteran who objected to the cross being on public land.[15] The message also claimed that a non-sectarian memorial had been brought to the site, but that unspecified technical difficulties prevented it from being put in place of the cross.[15] On June 1, the Liberty Institute publicly offered in the Desert Dispatch to take back and care for the cross at a church in Yucca Valley,[16] but two weeks later, the person who stole the cross had not yet responded.[17] After the theft was reported, an atheist organization, Atheist Alliance International, offered $5,000 to go towards replacing the cross with a more inclusive and non-religious veterans' memorial, but the gesture was ignored by religious groups who insisted that the cross be restored. [18]

On May 20, 2010, park rangers discovered that a replica of the cross stolen 10 days earlier was now bolted to the base of the original. Park personnel removed it and placed it into evidence. Mojave National Park spokesperson, Linda Slater, said that since the replica is not the original disputed cross, it had to come down. "The park service has regulations about people putting up memorials. You can't just go to a park and put up a memorial to a family member."[19]

The cross was eventually found, over 500 miles away, in Half Moon Bay, California in early November, 2012.[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gillman, Todd J. (2009-10-04). "Liberty Legal takes up cross for religion". The Dallas Morning News. Archived from the original on 2010-01-13. 
  2. ^ Bravin, Jess (2009-09-29). "Pocket Docket: Supreme Court's New Season". The Wall Street Journal. 
  3. ^ Drazin, Israel (2009-10-05). "The divisive Mojave cross". Los Angeles Times. 
  4. ^ Goad, Ben (2009-10-05). "[Cross comes before court] MOJAVE PRESERVE: Some argued that the sacred salute to soldiers was not constitutional.". Washington Bureau Press-Enterprise. 
  5. ^ a b c d Barnes, Robert (2009-09-28). "For Couple, Memorial Became a Mission". The Washington Post. 
  6. ^ a b Barnes, Robert (2010-04-28). "Supreme Court overturns objection to cross on public land". The Washington Post. It seems likely that once the legal battles are over, the 6 1/2-foot cross standing atop an outcropping called Sunrise Rock will remain, although that was not settled by the decision. 
  7. ^ de Vogue, Ariane (2010-04-28). "Supreme Court Keeps Mojave Cross Case Alive". ABC News. 
  8. ^ Jablon, Robert. "Thieves steal controversial Mojave cross". The Associated Press. Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  9. ^ "Caretakers of Stolen Mojave Desert Cross Vow to Replace It". Fox News. 2010-05-11. 
  10. ^ Welch, William M. (2010-05-11). "Vandals tear down cross that justices would not". USA Today. 
  11. ^ Curwen, Thomas (2012-04-25). "Ruling will allow Mojave Desert outcropping to again feature a cross". Los Angeles Times. 
  12. ^ Watson, Julie (2012-11-11). "Mojave Cross Starts New Life On Veterans Day With Dedication Ceremony". The Associated Press (Huffington Post). Retrieved 13 April 2013. 
  13. ^ Beffort, Brian (2005). Afoot & afield Las Vegas & southern Nevada : a comprehensive hiking guide. Berkeley: Wilderness Press. pp. 248–9. ISBN 0-89997-357-4. OCLC 60828226. 
  14. ^ a b Cejnar, Jessica (2010-05-11). "Federal law enforcement investigating apparent theft of Mojave cross". The Desert Dispatch. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  15. ^ a b c "Anonymous letter explaining cross theft sent to Desert Dispatch". The Desert Dispatch. 2010-05-11. 
  16. ^ Shackelford, Kelly (2010-06-01). "New home has been arranged for Mojave Cross". The Desert Dispatch. 
  17. ^ Cejnar, Jessica (2010-06-15). "Offer of new home for Mojave cross goes unanswered". The Desert Dispatch. 
  18. ^ Cole, Ethan (2010-05-15). "Offer of new memorial for veterans' memorial is ignored". The Christian Post. 
  19. ^ "Replica cross in Mojave Desert will come down". Mohave Daily News. 2010-05-21. 
  20. ^ Van Derbeken, Jaxon (2012-11-06). The San Francisco Chronicle http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Mojave-Cross-found-in-Half-Moon-Bay-4010884.php |url= missing title (help). 

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