ON-Lion Letter
To defend the constitutionality of a 75-year old Mojave Desert cross that memorializes World War I veterans, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C., filed an amicus curiae, or "friend-of-the-court," brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in June. 

The Becket Fund brief argues 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.  Earlier in the month, the federal government filed its own brief in which it also defended the cross' constitutionality.

"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, which is supported by Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.  "The First Amendment guarantees the right to speak and believe freely; it does not guarantee the right to silence those who disagree with you."

Salazar v. Buono, commonly called the Mojave Desert Cross case, deals with whether the cross memorializing the veterans can remain within what is now a federal preserve.  A federal district court initially ruled that the cross had to be removed.  Congress then enacted legislation directing the U.S. Department of Interior to transfer an acre of land, including the cross, to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in exchange of a parcel of equal value elsewhere in the preserve.

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals then permanently enjoined the government from implementing the law.  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.

"If the Supreme Court strikes down this memorial, tens of thousands of memorials around the country stand at risk," Rassbach added.

(Photo by Eric Reed)
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