The high court’s decision was applauded by the Liberty Counsel, an advocacy group representing VFW and other military service organizations and the American Center for Law and Justice. Opponents, including the ACLU, pledged to keep fighting for the removal of the cross.
"To think anyone can rationalize the desecration of a war memorial is sickening, and for them to believe they won't be apprehended is very naïve,” said Mr. Tradewell, a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran from Sussex, Wis.
The cross’s removal leaves veterans’ groups hunting for clues. Looking at the pictures of the site where the cross once was, VFW chief spokesperson Joe Davis says he is amazed at the serious planning and execution that went into the theft. The cutting of the thick, metal pipes in concrete was a serious undertaking, he says.
The eight-foot-high cross had been perched on a wind-swept rock jutting 30 feet above the Mojave National Preserve 76 years ago by a group of World War 1 veterans. Situated in a wide expanse of arid desert, the cross was about 20 feet off a two-lane highway where perhaps 20 cars pass a day.
It later sparked a First Amendment court battle when the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the National Park Service in March, 2001, saying the cross violated the First Amendment because it was a “religious fixture” on federal land. A federal judge at first agreed, crushing local veterans who claimed that the cross was a historic monument, not an ecclesiastical object. The judge had ruled that the US Supreme Court’s interpretation of the US Constitution’s “establishment clause” meant “the government may not promote or affiliate itself with any religious doctrine or organization.”