September 7, 2007

Court Says Get Rid of Cross

CitizenLink News Center
Colorado Springs, CO

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has disallowed a planned public-private land swap that would have preserved a Christian cross in the middle of the vast Mojave National Preserve, ruling it violates the Constitution’s establishment clause prohibiting government endorsement of religion.

After the 9th Circuit found the cross unconstitutional in 2004, Congress passed a law to transfer the parcel to private ownership. The 8-foot white cross, erected in 1934 to honor World War I veterans, has been covered with plywood during the legal dispute.

Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst for Focus on the Family Action, said the ruling shows how muddled establishment-clause law has become. He cited the Mt. Soledad war memorial cross in San Diego, in which the city transferred the property to the federal government.

“In the Mt. Soledad case, the government ends up with a cross, and that's OK, but in the Mojave National Preserve case, the government tries to give away a cross, and that's not OK,” Hausknecht said.

“My hope is that this case gets appealed to the Supreme Court, which now has a majority of justices on the bench whose understanding of the First Amendment leaves hope that we can finally get some decisions that will straighten out decades of the court's floundering on this subject.”