Ruling congressional land exchange legal, Supreme Court upholds cross in Mojave NPres

The Supreme Court ruled today that Congress and the Interior Department acted properly when they used a land transfer to solve a dispute over a cross on display in the federal Mojave National Preserve.

The case, Salazar v. Buono, stemmed from a 2001 lawsuit challenging a cross erected in 1934 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Frank Buono, an Oregon resident who had served as an assistant superintendent in the park and was a regular visitor, claimed the memorial to World War I veterans was unconstitutional because it gave the impression that the government was advancing a particular religion.

By a 5-4 margin, the Supreme Court ruled today that lower federal courts were wrong to dismiss as "evasion" the federal government's effort to transfer the land underneath the religious symbol. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion (pdf) for the majority, arguing that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had failed to consider the profound "dilemma" posed by the case.

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