Cross in Mojave Desert should be removed

October 29, 2009 — by Girish Swaminath

A new Supreme Court case has sparked discussion about the principle of the separation of church and state: Salazar v. Buono. In 2001, Frank Buono, a National Park Service employee, challenged the presence of a cross in the Mojave National Preserve in California, which is considered federal land. A district court ruled in his favor , and it looked as if if the cross would be removed. But in an end-around maneuver, Congress designated the cross a national war memorial, and it remained. At the same time, the government soon appealed the decision of the district court, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court this year.

Let’s hope the court is wise enough to decide in favor of removing the cross. Right now , with this symbol, it recognizes only the sacrifices made by Christian members of the army rather than the collective military unit. This monument is unfair to those who do not believe in Christianity but have spent years in service of the country. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Peter Eliasberg, the managing attorney of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have had heated dialogues over this topic.

“The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of the dead,” said Scalia. “What would you have them erect? Some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and you know, a Muslim half moon and star?”

“I have been in Jewish cemeteries. There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew,” said Eliasberg. “So it is the most common symbol to honor Christians.”

“I don’t think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that the cross honors are the Christian war dead,” said Scalia. “I think that’s an outrageous conclusion.”

Scalia argues having the cross erected on federal property is not a violation of the Bill of Rights since it is such a common symbol in America.

Years ago, the National Park Service denied permission for a Buddhist symbol to be placed within the Mojave Desert. Having done this, the park service cannot then allow the cross to remain.

The cross does not help Americans uphold and maintain Jefferson’s intentions when laying the judicial foundation of this great nation. America loses its nickname, “the land of the free,” when it promotes one religion over another. The partial treatment of religious groups in the nation serves as a detriment to the unity of the people.

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