WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed today to step into a long-running legal fight over an 8-foot cross that stands as a war memorial in the vast Mojave National Preserve in California.
The justices said that in Court arguments set for this fall, they will consider an appeals court ruling that ordered the cross be torn down.
The American Civil Liberties Union and a former National Park Service employee have been challenging the cross's continued presence on national parkland for nearly eight years. A cross has stood on the site since 1934, when a local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars erected it atop an outcropping known as Sunrise Rock.
Congress has transferred ownership of the land on which the cross stands to a private party.
The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has twice said the cross must come down. It invalidated the 2004 congressionally approved land transfer, saying that "carving out a tiny parcel of property in the midst of this vast preserve — like a donut hole with the cross atop it — will do nothing to minimize the impermissible governmental endorsement" of the religious symbol.
The case is Salazar v. Buono, 08-472.
The issues involve whether an individual has Article III standing to bring an establishment-clause suit challenging the cross display and whether an act of Congress directing the land be transferred to a private entity is a permissible accommodation.