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Supreme Court to decide fate of 8-foot Mojave cross

By The Associated Press
02.23.09

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.


Update
High court appears split on constitutionality of Mojave cross
Several conservative justices seemed open to Obama administration's argument that Congress' decision to transfer land to private ownership took care of First Amendment questions. 10.07.09

Previous
9th Circuit again rules that Mojave cross must come down
Court upholds lower court's decision that congressionally endorsed land transfer was a sham. 09.07.07

Related

San Diego cross can stay, federal judge rules

Mount Soledad veterans memorial found constitutional because it 'communicates the primarily non-religious messages of military service, death and sacrifice.' 07.31.08

High court to weigh dispute over Mojave cross

By Tony Mauro Case will test attitude of new Roberts Court on how to resolve thorny establishment-clause questions. 02.24.09

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