Salazar v. Buono
The ACRU is happy to report that an important stride was taken today, April 28, 2010, in defense of the 1st Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of protecting an historic veteran’s memorial cross in the Mojave Desert that had been challenged by the ACLU. The Veterans of Foreign Wars erected the memorial cross in the Mojave National Preserve in 1934. A former preserve employee and visitor, Frank Buono, claimed that the cross violated the First Amendment. Rather than remove the cross, Congress and the Interior Department transferred the land to the VFW. Buono, backed by the ACLU and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, continued to insist on the removal of the cross.
The ACRU argued in a June 8, 2009 amicus brief that Mr. Buono lacked standing to claim an injury on account of the cross. In today’s ruling in Salazar v. Buono, the Court upheld the land transfer as constitutional.
Salazar v. Buono is the latest case arising from the battle of militant atheists against people of faith. In the Mojave Desert National Preserve there is a memorial in the form of a cross dedicated to World War I soldiers. The plaintiff, Buono, brought suit with the backing and legal support of the ACLU to have the cross removed, arguing that having a cross on public land was unconstitutional. After years of litigation, the federal government took the extraordinary step of passing a law that would allow the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) to take the plot of land with the cross, in exchange for the VFW donating land of equal value to the National Park Service. Committed to seeing the cross removed, Buono obtained a court order to prevent the land exchange from being completed. The Ninth Circuit federal appeals court affirmed this order. The Supreme Court has taken the case to determine if the plaintiff even has legal standing to continue this case. On June 8, 2009, the ACRU filed an amicus brief in favor of the preserving the cross.