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Religious Tolerance logo

Separation of church and state


The Christian cross in the Mojave
National Preserve

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A group of wounded Americans veterans were in the Mojave Desert following World War 1, where the low humidity was expected to help their recovery. In 1934. one of them placed a cross in the Mojave National Preserve as a memorial to the soldiers killed during World War 1.

A religious symbol on public land raises separation of church and state issues. Decades later, in 2001, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) initiated a lawsuit against the National Park Service on behalf of Frank Buono, a Roman Catholic and retired deputy superintendent of the Preserve where the cross is located.

In response to a court ruling that the cross must be removed, Congress attempted to preserve the cross by selling one acre of park land immediately around the cross to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), a private non-profit group. The resultant legal case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. They determined by a the usual 5 to 4 vote that the cross could stay at least temporarily. They returned the case to a lower court. It was subsequently stolen. The VFW installed what appears to be a duplicate cross, but the park service plans to remove it unless it can be shown to be the original..

This case remains a major test of what most had considered settled law concerning separation of church and state. The situation may have major repercussions in the future.

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Topics covered in this section:

bullet Description of the cross and its history. What the cross signifies to people.

bullet Church/state separation aspects. Lawsuit filed. 2002 court ruling. Bill in Congress.

bullet Case upheld on appeal, twice. Video of cross. Another appeal. Final appeal

bullet A possible compromise. Comments on the cross & lawsuit by individuals and groups

bullet Supreme Court briefs filed. Oral arguments made. Possible impacts of the ruling.

bullet Supreme Court ruling; reactions.

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Copyright © 2002 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2010-MAY-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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