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Thread: Seperation of Church & State...

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    Seperation of Church & State...

    ...."does not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm."

    Supreme Court supports cross on federal land in Calif.

    The Supreme Court on Wednesday said a lower federal court was wrong to order the removal of a lone cross on government land in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and said separation of church and state "does not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm."

    The case, which involved a white cross erected by veterans more than 75 years ago to honor the dead of World War I, splintered the court. The court's conservative members prevailed, but six of the nine justices wrote to explain their views.

    It did not provide a clear rule for the future -- or even explicitly say that the cross could remain in place. "To date, the court's jurisprudence in this area has refrained from making sweeping pronouncements, and this case is ill suited for announcing categorical rules," said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

    But he wrote that the cross "is not merely a reaffirmation of Christian beliefs."

    He added: "Here, one Latin cross in the desert evokes far more than religion. It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies are compounded if the fallen are forgotten."

    The Supreme Court on Wednesday said a lower federal court was wrong to order the removal of a lone cross on government land in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and said separation of church and state "does not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm."

    The case, which involved a white cross erected by veterans more than 75 years ago to honor the dead of World War I, splintered the court. The court's conservative members prevailed, but six of the nine justices wrote to explain their views.

    It did not provide a clear rule for the future -- or even explicitly say that the cross could remain in place. "To date, the court's jurisprudence in this area has refrained from making sweeping pronouncements, and this case is ill suited for announcing categorical rules," said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

    Kennedy wrote that Congress had probably corrected any problem with the cross being on public land by agreeing to swap a small portion of the rock outcropping on which it stands to a veterans group, which has said it will maintain the site as a memorial.

    A federal court in California, where the cross is located in the vast Mojave National Preserve, had said the land swap was an "illicit" way for the government to get around a ruling that the cross violated constitutional protections against government endorsement of religion.

    Kennedy's opinion told the lower court to reconsider Congress's action, and made clear his own belief: "The land-transfer statute embodies Congress's legislative judgment that this dispute is best resolved through a framework and policy of accommodation for a symbol that, while challenged under the Establishment Clause, has complex meaning beyond the expression of religious views."

    Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. concurred in the judgment, although all but Thomas wrote separately. Alito said there was no need to send the case back to the lower court, and that the cross should remain.

    Justice John Paul Stevens was joined in dissent by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

    "I certainly agree that the nation should memorialize the service of those who fought and died in World War I, but it cannot lawfully do so by continued endorsement of a starkly sectarian message," Stevens wrote.

    He took issue with the majority's view that the cross has many meanings.

    Source

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    Disputed Mojave cross honoring US war dead stolen



    LOS ANGELES — A cross erected on a remote Mojave Desert outcropping to honor American war dead has been stolen less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it to remain standing while a legal battle continued over its presence on federal land.

    Versions of the memorial have been vandalized repeatedly in the last 75 years and the motive this time was not immediately known, but the theft was condemned Tuesday by veterans groups that support the cross and by civil libertarians that saw it as a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.

    "The American Legion expects whoever is responsible for this vile act to be brought to justice," said Clarence Hill, the group's national commander.

    Attorney Peter Eliasberg of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which sued on behalf of an opponent of the cross, said the organization rejects any resort to theft or vandalism.

    "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," he said.

    The 7-foot-high metal cross vanished from its perch in the Mojave National Preserve late Sunday or early Monday, said National Park Service spokeswoman Linda Slater. Bolts holding it to the rock were cut.

    Slater said possible scenarios ranged from people "with an interest in the case" to metal scavengers. The U.S. Justice Department was looking into the case.

    The cross has been the center of a legal dispute for about a decade since a complaint by a former park service employee represented by the ACLU.

    On a 5-4 vote in April, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to order its removal. The high court told a federal judge to take a new look at a congressional plan to transfer land under the cross to private ownership.

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