Supreme Court takes up Mojave Desert cross monument case

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Sunrise Rock, Mojave National Park (License: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/)

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday morning in the case of a cross on a hillside in the middle of California’s Mojave desert. KPCC’s Washington Correspondent Kitty Felde reports.

Kitty Felde: The original cross was erected in 1934 by veterans honoring their fallen comrades from World War I. But the religious symbol was on federal property. Congress tried to prevent the park service from taking the cross down by declaring it a national memorial and then giving the land around the cross to the veterans.

The issue before the Supreme Court is whether congressional action was an endorsement of one particular religion. ACLU attorney Peter Eliasberg said of the 49 national memorials around the country, only this one is a cross.

Peter Eliasberg: The government doesn’t designate symbols as national memorials when it disagrees with the message.

Felde: Inside the courtroom, Justice Antonin Scalia asked whether a cross honors non-Christian veterans as well. Eliasberg said the cross was a symbol of Christ’s death. He added that he’d been to a lot of Jewish cemeteries and never seen a cross there. The Supreme Court will decide the fate of the Mojave cross later this term.

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