Three Christian legal firms filed amicus briefs on Monday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reject the contention that the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial is unconstitutional.
"This case impacts not just one veterans' memorial in the desert, but thousands across the country. Tearing down the Mojave Desert Veterans' Memorial, which has been there since 1934, would be unconscionable and it would also impact thousands of other memorials nationwide," said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel of Liberty Legal Institute, which filed a brief on behalf of 4 million veterans and the memorial's caretakers.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit in 2001 on behalf of Frank Buono, a former National Park Services employee, against the Mojave Desert memorial – a seven-foot-tall memorial cross erected more than 70 years ago by World War I veterans.
Congress made attempts to designate the cross as a national memorial and to transfer one acre of land that included the memorial to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. But the District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the cross and the land transfer violated the Establishment Clause and ordered it removed.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review the case, Salazar v. Buono. In the meantime, the cross has been covered in a plywood box.
"This case represents the most extreme example of a phenomenon that has plagued the federal courts for decades – ideologically motivated citizens and public interest groups search out alleged Establishment Clause violations, almost always in the form of a passive religious symbol or display of some sort, and turn it into a federal case because they are offended," said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of 15 members of Congress.
"It's time for the high court to put an end to this disturbing practice."
Last month, veterans groups pleaded for the support of Americans to save the memorial cross and thousands like it. They made it clear that the cross was not erected as a religious symbol, but rather to honor those who sacrificed their lives for the country. They were disturbed that the ACLU would try to tear down a veterans memorial in their continued efforts to rid the country of religious symbols.
Tim Chandler, legal counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund, stated, "One person's agenda shouldn't diminish the sacrifice made by America's veterans and families."
"Americans want these memorials to be protected," he added. "What is more important: the feelings of a single 'offended' person or honoring the memory of thousands of American heroes in a way that has been considered constitutional throughout our nation's history? If the Mojave cross is not allowed to stand, then numerous other veterans' memorials are vulnerable to legal attack."