SAN FRANCISCO — The sale of public land to private parties in order to save the Mojave Desert Cross was a legal land transfer, according to attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund. ADF funded a friend-of-the-court brief for The National Legal Foundation asserting that the land transfer was a proper legal remedy to save the World War I memorial, located on public land in the middle of the Mojave Desert. The land transfer is the subject of a hearing Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
“The secularists’ attempt to dismantle this memorial adds injury to insult toward those who have lost family or friends during World War I,” said ADF Senior Counsel Joe Infranco. “We hope the court today recognizes the legality of the land transfer, so loved ones can resume memorializing those who have risked their lives defending our rights--the first of which is the right to religious expression and free speech.”
The Veterans of Foreign Wars erected the first Mojave Desert Cross atop Sunrise Rock in 1934 as a memorial to World War I veterans, maintaining and replacing the cross as needed since then. When the memorial became the subject of legal battles, government officials covered the cross with boards.
A federal district court ruling, later upheld by the 9th Circuit, required the Department of the Interior to dismantle the Latin cross, saying that the cross violated the Establishment Clause. When Congress through the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2004 authorized a transfer of the land, the ACLU filed a motion that persuaded the district court that the land transfer was invalid.
“Transferring the land to private parties was a proper way for the federal government to end the perceived problems regarding the memorial, which has stood in the Mojave Desert for decades in honor of World War I veterans,” said ADF-allied attorney Joseph Martins with The National Legal Foundation. “The court has the ability to put a much-needed check on the ACLU’s seek-and-destroy mission to hunt down and obliterate religious symbols in public.”
ADF attorneys were recently successful in assisting in the defense of a similar land transfer in order to protect the Mt. Soledad National War Memorial in San Diego.
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.