On Monday, in a brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Salazar v. Buono, the U.S. government defended the constitutionality of the 75-year old Mojave Desert Cross, which memorializes World War I veterans.
Salazar v. Buono, commonly called the Mojave Desert Cross case, deals with whether a 75-year old cross memorializing World War I veterans can remain within what is now a federal preserve. The district court initially ruled that the cross had to be removed. Congress then enacted legislation directing the Department of Interior to transfer an acre of land, including the cross, to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in exchange of a parcel of equal value elsewhere in the preserve.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit then permanently enjoined the government from implementing the act. The cross was initially ordered to be covered in a burlap sack. When the sack blew away, the court ordered the cross to be covered in a plywood box.
The government argued that the case should be dismissed because the plaintiff has not been personally injured or denied any rights by the presence of the cross; he merely claims to be offended by it.
"Stripping this country of every symbol-even the religious ones-that might offend somebody somewhere will impoverish American culture," said Eric Rassbach, National Litigation Director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. "The First Amendment guarantees the right to speak and believe freely; it does not guarantee the right to silence those who disagree with you."
“If the Supreme Court strikes down this memorial, tens of thousands of memorials around the country stand at risk," added Rassbach.
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