What's at stake
- Challenges to monuments that honor the courage and sacrifice of our soldiers
- Whether the display of religious icons on private property formally owned by the government violates the Establishment Clause
In memory of American soldiers who died fighting in World War I, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) placed a cross on federal land in the Mojave Desert in 1934. In 2001, the ACLU sued the National Park Service on behalf of a retired federal park employee who claimed to be offended by the cross. In 2004, Congress authorized the transfer of the one acre of land under the cross back to the VFW, a private organization, in exchange for five acres of other land. The ACLU argued that the land transfer was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the act of Congress transferring the land under the cross memorial to the VFW was constitutional. As a result, the cross memorial was permitted to stand. The Supreme Court noted that “the Constitution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion’s role in society.”
Our role in this case
Attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom and our allied organizations Advocates for Faith and Freedom and the American Legion Department of California, filed a friend-of-the-court brief that argued for the lifting of a court order that required the cross memorial to be covered up. Additionally, Alliance Defending Freedom provided funding to assist with the coordination of the amici effort and assist the legal team’s preparation for argument at the Supreme Court.