Will the Mojave Desert cross controversy ever end?

You may recall that last month the Supreme Court ruled that the 7 foot Christian symbol, erected in 1934 to honor fallen U.S. servicemen, was not necessarily a violation of church-state separation just because it was erected on federal land, a ruling that disturbed groups like the American Jewish Committee.

But it was not a conclusive ruling, and the case was expected to go back to the lower courts – where, no doubt, it would bounce around for another decade or two and elicit reams of briefs from church-state and progressive Jewish groups on one side, conservative Christians and just plain conservatives on the other.

Now, it seems, thieves have made off with the controversial religious symbol. According to an AP report, the cross was stolen over the weekend by thieves who apparently sawed through bolts that attached it to a rock base.

In a particularly droll statement, the AP reported that a national park spokesman said that while there are no suspects, the thief could have been a scrap metal scavenger – or people “with an interest in the case.”

The cross controversy has been going for more than a decade, and the legal arguments have been mired in questions such as whether a cross is always a religious symbol and what constitutes “standing” in an Establishment Clause case. Translation: a lot of lawyers have gotten a lot of billable hours from the case.

Think the theft will settle the matter? Don’t bet on it.

 

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