In the vast desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas is the 1.6 million-acre Mojave National Preserve. Located within the preserve, in an area so remote that an hour can pass between cars traveling by, sits a 7-foot cross on the top of a hill. There used to be a cross there, that is. Today, the cross is covered by a plywood box, looking for all the world like a blank billboard on a lonely rock outcropping.
The reason the cross is covered is as simple as it is dangerous: The cross is the latest target of radical secularists who seek to drive every manifestation of God and faith from our public spaces, however remote.
For 75 years, what has become known as the Mojave Cross has stood on a remote outcropping in the desert known as Sunrise Rock. The cross was first erected in 1934 by the Death Valley chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars to honor the servicemen and women who lost their lives in World War I.
But about a decade ago, a park service employee in the preserve decided he was offended by the presence of a cross on federal land.
With the help of the ACLU, he sued, arguing that the cross violates the constitutional prohibition on government establishment of religion. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — the same court that ruled the words “under God” unconstitutional in the Pledge of Allegiance — agreed and ordered the cross removed.
But then Congress got involved and came up with a solution. The land the Mojave Cross sits on was transferred from the federal government to the VFW, thus removing the constitutional issue, for some, of a religious symbol on federal land.
But even that solution was not enough for the radical secularists. They’ve taken the case all the way to the Supreme Court, where justices heard arguments in the case earlier this fall. It’s anybody’s guess how the high court will rule. But it’s clear to the nation’s veterans what is at stake.
Literally thousands of other monuments and memorials on public lands display the cross and other religious imagery. If the court finds the Mojave Cross “offensive” for the ACLU and its allies, the crosses and other expressions of religious faith that honor our war dead elsewhere are in jeopardy as well.
It’s a tragic irony that the men and women who died protecting our religious freedom may be denied theirs after death.
As we enter the Christmas season, it’s important for Americans of all religious faiths to understand how important a cross in the desert — a cross they may never see — is to the survival of our liberty.
If we give a handful of radicals and an imperial judiciary the power to decide that they, not our creator, grant us our rights, we will be giving them the power to take our rights away.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has published 19 books, including 10 fiction and nonfiction best-sellers. He is founder of the Center for Health Transformation and chairman of American Solutions for Winning the Future. For more information, visit
www.newt.org. His exclusive column for The Examiner appears Fridays.