Monday, May 10, 2010

Mojave Cross Torn Down and Stolen!

An icon located along a lonely desert road deep in the heart of the Mojave National Preserve is gone.

The Mojave Cross, June 2007.

The WWI memorial, located high atop "Sunrise Rock", was originally erected in 1934 by Veterans including John Riley Bembrey, a medic during the conflict. It has since been replaced by a more durable, metal cross in place of the weather-worn wooden one.   In my travels I pass the controversial landmark a few times a month.  Until this year the cross' history and struggle have only been important to a few.  That all changed early this year when the U.S. Supreme Court took the legal case of Salazar v. Buono in an effort to help decide the future of the cross' position within the Mojave National Preserve.  The High Court recently ruled on the case and, in part, stated that a land transfer to remove the cross from Federal land ruled against by the Ninth Court of Appeals was indeed a valid one and returned the case to the lower court for further action.  (There are tons of places on the net to find more some searching.)
The Mojave Cross (covered due to court order) in January of 2010.
The Cross is exposed shortly after vandals removed the court-ordered cover, June 2007 (the wooden box used to cover the cross is visible at the base of the rock.)

I was shocked today when I rode past Sunrise Rock only to find the Mojave Cross missing.  I walked around the base of the rock in the hopes of finding the fallen memorial.  Finding nothing, I then ascended the steep desert rocks in an effort to satisfy my curiosity.  Where had the Mojave Cross gone?  How could such a durable, heavy, large object that I had seen just one week earlier be gone?  Who could have committed such a cowardly act?  Upon arriving at the top of the rocks, I again saw nothing.  No fallen cross.  Nothing.  All that remains are some chunks of old concrete and three bolts, showing clear evidence of having been recently cut off.  Someone went there with a plan, there is no doubt.
All that remains.  Bolts have been cut off and the cross has been stolen.

It's a sad day when a piece of history is destroyed.  What's even worse to me is that someone probably had to drive 3 hours or more in order to steal this memorial to fallen soldiers of WWI.  It disgusts me to see how despicable some people truly are.  I hope the culprits are caught and convicted of this theft.  Whoever did this is cowardly and juvenile.

I stopped at the Headquarters of the Mojave National Preserve in Kelso to see what I could find out.  I spoke to a handful of employees (I think at least a couple of them were actually volunteers) who indicated that the box covering the cross had been removed sometime Saturday May 8th or Sunday May 9th and the cross was removed sometime during the overnight hours of Sunday or predawn hours Monday May 10th.  They told me one of the NPS Law Enforcement Rangers traveled out to Sunrise Rock early today (Monday) to investigate.  The NPS personnel I spoke to at the Kelso Depot explained to me that they were not authorized to comment further.

All photos Copyright 2007-2010, - may not be copied, reused, or distributed without permission.


Hank Fox said...

So, if the value of the thing is that it's a memorial to WWI soldiers, how would you feel if the cross was replaced by a nice statue?

Bill Mcdonald said...

Thanks Scott for this post. I just blogged on this over at my site, and
won't bore everyone here, let me just say however, this really is an outrage and a terrible dishonor to those men who died long ago far away from their homes, akin to removing the cross from their final resting place.

Thank you for your thoughtful post.

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Gary said...

Hank, how would you feel if someone else decided how you could choose to memorialize heroes that you respected? Those men died for liberty; they didn't die so that nay-saying atheists could scrub every vestige of religious faith from the public eye. What's next, official copies of the Declaration with the censor's stamp blotting out "God"?

Anonymous said...

Funny thing but the last I heard the defense of America was by Americans. If it is only by Christian Americans, why not just put up a sign making clear that wartime deaths of others just don't count and only Christian deaths are worth memorializing?

Christian property already gets huge benefits at the expense of the rest of us, such as their tax exemption on their real estate. Why not put their religious symbols on their own property?

Exactly what does their crucifixion symbol have to do with the promotion of nature in a national park to be enjoyed by ALL of us?

Anonymous said...

This last poster must be a member of the ACLU. That's all they see a cross's just a religious symbol. The problem with this country is that dumb people far out number smart ones. Some are even so bad that they think college makes them smart. Whoever took down the cross should be shot and it's getting closer to that everyday.

ww4cash said...

Is this monument on a paved road? I would like to ride my cruiser by there once it is back up. Can someone give me directions?

Hank Fox said...

Anonymous said: "Whoever took down the cross should be shot and it's getting closer to that everyday."

Thank you for your heartfelt but misguided opinion.

"The problem with this country" is that too many people live their entire lives here but never understand the least little part of what America means.

Little parts such as equal protection, equal rights, equal voice. Not just Christian voices and rights and protection.

Big parts such as not making thinly veiled threats to murder people you disagree with.

And by the way, Anonymous? I didn't go to college. But I did READ everything I could get my hands on.

I also grew up in Texas with people who owned guns but who also had guts, and would therefore never use them to make silly threats.


Gary said: "What's next, official copies of the Declaration with the censor's stamp blotting out 'God'?"

Gary, heh. Why not? It's already been taken out of the Constitution ... which is the document that actually created the United States of America.

Oh, wait, it was never IN the Constitution. I guess the Founders must have had their reasons.

Anonymous said...

Given that the fallen soldiers in my family are JEWISH...I'm not terribly upset about this. In my mind, it is (was) a cross...a symbol of Christianity, NOT a memorial to ALL veterans. No matter what people think, ONE religious symbol cannot represent ALL Americans.

Lee Murray said...

It seems that the some of the previous commenters have gotten caught up in the cross being a symbol of Christianity, and forgotten that it's a memorial, in the form of a cross.
Just so you know, personally I was raised as an Episcopalian, then segwayed into Buddism, then segwayed into Evangelical Cristianity as a Born Again, (due primarily to a girl), at First Evangelical in Fullerton, and since am a general believer in God. That being said, getting hung up on the controversy of one's religion v another's and one symbol v another is silly... Considering that contrary to what some of you apparently believe, God is God, whether you call it, (no disrespect intended by calling it it), God, or Logos, or YHWH, or any of the ninty nine Moslem names for Allah, or Bhagwan, or really no God at all in Buddism, or whatever.
The veterans of the war chose for themselves a memorial in the shape of a cross. THAT is what should be respected. I'm pretty sure they meant no disrespect to other religions, but if they did so what? It was 75 or 80 years ago by men long gone, who probably thought of the cross as the ultimate symbol. Grow up kiddies.
re the anonomous commenter who harangued about "Christian" property being tax free, apparently you are unaware that ALL church property is tax free. Whether Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, or Jim Joneslike types, if it can be proven to the IRS it's a church, it's all, not just the land, tax free. So what? Grow up kiddies.
Same commenter, it's not there to promote nature, it was probably put there before it was a National park, and if you don't like it ignore it. As I said GROW UP kiddies.
What do the four presidents have to do with promoting nature in the mountains of South Dakota? Why should they be in a national park I don't especially care about them. So I don't go there and if I did I'd look and then go on my way, I run to wouldn't get a lawyer and demand they be removed. Per Hanks question about a statue, I have no problem with that, but then I wasn't one of the veterans who put up the memorial, they, whoever they were, whatever religion they were, what ever nationality they were, CHOSE TO PUT UP A CROSS, and their choice is what should be respected. Grow up kiddies.

Lee Murray

Lee Murray said...

I got so hung up on the commenters that I forgot so say, the theives should be horsewhipped.

Lee Murray

Hank Fox said...

Lee: Heh. Lots of stuff there that seems outwardly reasonable but which is tone-deaf to the central issue.

Fortunately, other people are asking these questions about separation of church and state, and the historic favor which Christians have enjoyed at the expense of other faiths, and the expense of those of no faith at all.

And fortunately, usually, the reasonable point of equal rights and equal protection gets made.

Lee Murray said...

Hey Hank,
Just curious, where specifically does it spell out the separation of church and state in the Constitution?
The first amendment says it will not establist a church or prohibit the free exercise thereof. See below:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
I'm sorry I don't see anything about separation, just that the government won't establish or limit one, per the King's Church of England. It doesn't say a word about not being allowed to display a cross on public land.
Of course there is the letter Jefferson wrote in 1802, but that's not the Constitution, is it? Just one man telling a church, they'll be ok really. Then of course you have John Locke, again not the constitution, just another man, an early liberal, and probable athiest, promoting his own views.
Then you have Aricle 6 which only says no religious test will be used to qualify a person for government/public office.
It really comes, if it does come at all, from decisions of the Supreme Court re: Reynolds v US 1879, Everson v Board of Education 1947, Engal v Vitale 1962, etc.
Again not the Constitution, just nine men, and women now, offering opinions, that unfortunately in some cases, influence law.
But show me, in the Constitution, where it specifically spells out the separation of church and state, beyond that the government will not establish or control a state religion....
I can't say I've ever witnessed Christians getting preferential treatment, maybe they do I don't know. But, let's assume it's true for a minute, is it truely at the expense of other religions? I sincerely doubt it, but cite some specifics, not just a general accusation.

Lee Murray

Hank Fox said...

All that Constitution stuff is moot, in a way, in that separation of church and state IS settled law, these days. (The one thing about it that Christians don't understand is that it protects THEM from government interference as much as it protects government from them.)

But "I can't say I've ever witnessed Christians getting preferential treatment ..."


So churches and church property being tax exempt isn't preferential treatment?

And before you bring up non-profit organizations, bear in mind that non-profits DO have to file annual returns based on carefully-recorded statements of income and expenses. Churches don't. Nobody knows how much churches bring in, because they're not required to file any sort of paperwork with the IRS ... unlike EVERY other business and businesslike organization.

This is preferential treatment even a 15-year-old kid mowing lawns can understand.

Bill Mcdonald said...

For ww4cash, yes Sunrise Rock is on a paved road, and it is a beautiful drive up to Sunrise Rock. Here are the directions you asked for, the easiest way.

Exit Interstate 15 at Cima Road exit, this is the exit midway between Halloran Summit and Mountain Pass, right past the rest stop on I-15.

You go south on this road, toward the Mojave Preserve for about 8 miles, you will know you are getting very close when you see a small parking area on the right for the Teutonia Peak trailhead.
Sunrise Rock will be on the left side of the road about 1/16 mile farther on, you'll recognise it from the photos on this blog page.

It is definitely a beautiful drive and worth the visit!

Lee Murray said...

Hello again.. So where did this site go for the last couple of days.
You're absolutely 100% correct and that's exactly what I said, ALL churches are tax free, not just Christians. If I were an athiest, and wanted the same privileges, why not start an athiest church and become tax free? No, to answer your question, I'm not kidding, being sarcastic, or denigrating athiests, they have as much right to disbelieve as believers have to believe. I think it's a great idea and may start one when I get back out there. Yes, it would be some trouble, paperwork, etc., but other churches had to go through it and if they're tax free, succeeded. It would actually be interesting to see, I'd attend just to see it.
Think about it if Jim Jones and his ilk can pass muster why not a church for athiests?

Lee Murray

Hank Fox said...

Lee, because atheism isn't a religion. Conflating it with one is capitulating to the religious status quo.

In effect, you'll be saying "Hey, special privileges are fine! I'll just give up and buy into it, and try to take unfair advantage too."

Also, I frequently see Christians misspell it "athiest," but don't often see atheists do it.

Lee Murray said...

Hank, i before e except after c, yet I was wrong, the exception that proves the rule? I should have looked it up I guess, sorry about that.
Truthfully, I pretty much think that fundamental Christians, with their belief that the bible is the literal word of God, etc., are just as full of .... as I think atheists are, with their equally twisted belief that everything around us happened by accident.
I tried it, and while I believe that this was all engineered and planned, by somebody/something, I just couldn't buy it with a straight face. I do like the atmosphere though the singing, the people, the music, even the preaching. In many respects the people you see at churches like Evie Free remind me of Amway people, the same scrubbed, shining faces and total faith, I think. Actually I've ejoyed our conversation, in some circles Buddhism is thought to be a form of atheism, so I guess I've tried that too...
Where you lose me is your insistance, your deathbeam focus, your obsession on reviling Christians. Christians are the bad guys.
I don't see once where you use the word churches, or religions, or faiths, it's always Christians. The truth is that as we agreed, all churches, whatever their faiths, are tax exempt and have the same prileges. Even an agnostic or atheist one would if established.
By the way, just my opinion, atheism is every bit as much a religion as any other, just based on the faith that there is no deity instead. Unless of course you guys know something the rest of us don't...
As for the pre-eminence of Christianity, this country was founded by Christians, a large percentage are Christian.
The myth that America is equality under the law, equal rights, equal protection, equal voice goes on. It's true, unless you're poor, a minority or woman, or just look odd I guess or guilty, in the wrong place at the wrong time. The reality is many, including many Christians, don't receive equal treatment, and never will. The prisons and skid rows are full up with them.
The other reality is that pretty much since Madalyn Murray O'Hair, or Madalyn O'Hair as she later called herself, atheists have demanded more, far more, than equal treatment, in that their views and demands must be given priority, no matter that those views, and the ones making the demands, are in a decided minority to the believers, Christian and other religions alike. About 80% are believers in one form or another, and about only 15% are atheist.

Lee Murray
See the info below from Wikipedia:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article primarily covers the current status of religion in the United States. For information about the historical role of religion, see History of religion in the United States.
Religion in the United States is remarkable both in its high adherence level compared to other developed countries as well as its diversity...
A majority of Americans report that religion plays a "very important" role in their lives, a proportion unusual among developed nations, though similar to other nations in the Americas.[1] Many faiths have flourished in the United States,
and have led the United States to become the most religiously diverse country in the world.
The majority of Americans identify themselves as Christians (76%), while non-Christian religions (including Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and others) collectively make up about 4% of the adult population.[3] Another 15% of the adult population identified as having no religious affiliation.

Hank Fox said...

"...atheism is every bit as much a religion as any other, just based on the faith that there is no deity," and "...atheists have demanded more, far more, than equal treatment ..."

Heh. No use arguing with you, I guess. I'm sorry you have so little understanding of the issues involved, but good luck with your "beliefs."

Lee Murray said...

Thanks, you too

Bryan Gray said...

Are your photos available for publication? Please contact me. Thanks



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