April 2009 Church & State | AU Bulletin

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case centering on display of a cross in the Mojave National Preserve in California.  

In 1934, the Veterans of Foreign Wars erected the Christian religious symbol as a war memorial. No other sectarian symbols have been permitted on the public land, and a citizen who asked to display a Buddhist symbol in the park was turned down.  

“Men and women of many faiths and none have served our country honorably and died to preserve our rights,” said Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “A Christian symbol cannot memorialize them all.”

To circumvent court rulings, Congress in 2003 approved a rider to a Defense Department bill declaring the cross a “national memorial” and mandating a property exchange that would transfer the cross and a parcel of land beneath it to private hands.

In its Salazar v. Buono decision, the Supreme Court will determine whether the display of the cross on public land is constitutional, but will also examine issues of “standing” – whether those who object have the right to sue.