Mojave Desert Cross is Stolen

In a weird twist to last month’s Supreme Court decision in Salazar v. Buono, in which justices allowed a cross in the Mojave National Preserve to remain on federal land, the 8-foot-tall symbol was stolen from its desert home sometime late Sunday night or early Monday morning.

The 76-year-old cross, built by Veterans of Foreign Wars to honor American soldiers killed in World War I, has been the subject of lengthy court battles over whether the symbol of Christian faith on federal land constituted an endorsement of religion. 

Most recently, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the cross “is not merely a reaffirmation of Christian beliefs” but a symbol “often used to honor and respect” heroism. The court referred the case back to lower court, but ruled that the cross should not be removed.

According to the National Park Service, the thieves cut the metal bolts that attached the cross to surrounding rocks. Park service spokeswoman Linda Slater on Tuesday said possible suspects range from scrap metal scavengers to people “with an interest in the case.” The VFW is offering a $25,000 reward.

I sincerely hope this wasn’t an act by some wrongheaded activist on a mission and I was relieved to see the ACLU condemn the theft. According to the Associated Press, Peter Eliasberg, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of a retired federal employee, said, ”We believe in the rule of law and we think the proper way to resolve to any controversy about the cross is through the courts.”

“We absolutely reject the idea of anybody engaging in theft or vandalism.”