May 11, 2010

Mojave Cross torn down by vandals

Bill McDonald shows where the Mojave Cross once stood. The cross was torn down by vandals sometime Sunday night. (William Wilson Lewis III/The Press-Enterprise)

Ben Goad

The 76-year-old Mojave Cross war memorial in San Bernardino County's High Desert has been torn down by vandals, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the religious symbol could remain -- at least temporarily -- on public land.

Sometime Sunday night, the cross was taken down from its perch atop Sunrise Rock in the Mojave National Preserve, according to Liberty Institute, a group that represented veterans groups and caretakers of the cross in the recent Supreme Court Case.

"This is an outrage, akin to desecrating people's graves," said institute president Kelly Shackelford. "It's a disgraceful attack on the selfless sacrifice of our veterans. We will not rest until this memorial is re-installed."

The cross was erected in the 1934 by a veterans group as a tribute to their fallen brethren in World War I. It has been the subject of a decade long court battle between those who want it to remain and those who believe it violates the separation of church and state.

In a split decision late last month, the Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that the cross must be removed. The High Court remanded the case back to federal district court in Southern California. The ruling was a major victory for proponents of the cross, but the American Civil Liberties Union vowed to renew its opposition to the cross.

Liberty Institute is offering an undisclosed reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the removal of VFW property.