The Supreme Court ruled to protect the Mojave Desert Memorial Cross from an ACLU lawsuit demanding it’s removal. On Sunday night, thieves with bolt cutters took it down anyway.
The 7-foot-tall, 75-year-old cross was first placed on the rock at the Mojave National Preserve in 1934 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars as a memorial to honor the American soldiers who died in World War I.
In April, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the lower courts ruling in California on the ACLU lawsuit which ordered the US Park Service to remove the cross due to separation of church and state.
However, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the first amendment does not call for a total ban on symbols of faith but a middle-ground “policy of accommodation”, the LA Times reported. The Christian cross on government land was allowed to stand since the Constitution “does not require the eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm,” the US Supreme Court ruled.
On Sunday night, two weeks after the ruling, the cross was removed.
“This is an outrage, akin to desecrating people’s graves,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of the Liberty Institute, which represents the caretakers of the Mojave Desert War Memorial. “It’s a disgraceful attack on the selfless sacrifice of our veterans. We will not rest until this memorial is re-installed.”
Authorities are saying the motive could have been thieves wanting scrap metal or people involved in the case. Or better said, people who disagreed with the ruling. The latter seems more likely since scrap metal thieves have somehow been able to keep their hands off the cross for 75-years.
“The American Legion expects whoever is responsible for this vile act to be brought to justice,” said Clarence Hill, the group’s national commander. “While the memorial has been attacked, the fight will continue to ensure that veterans memorials will remain sacrosanct.”
The Liberty Institute is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction in the theft case.