Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mojave Cross torn down by vandals

Vandals made off with the Mojave Cross war memorial in San Bernardino County's High Desert late Sunday, just 10 days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it could remain -- at least temporarily -- atop a remote outcropping of rocks in the Mojave National Preserve.

The theft of the cross, which has been at the center of a national debate over the separation of church and state, sparked condemnation from groups on all sides of the issue after it was announced by the National Park Service on Tuesday.

Authorities are seeking sthe public's help in finding those responsible, and supporters are offering $25,000 to anyone with information leading to a conviction.

William Wilson Lewis III/The Press-Enterprise
Bill McDonald stands atop Sunshine Rock where the Mojave Cross stood. The iron cross was stolen over the weekend. McDonald, of Buena Park, came to see what happened.
Meanwhile, the San Bernardino County couple who have been serving as caretakers of the cross for decades began working to replace it. Henry and Wanda Sandoz said they had no idea who could have cut through the heavy, welded-over bolts that attached the iron cross to Sunrise Rock.

"I hope that I don't know anybody that mean and destructive and coldhearted," said Wanda Sandoz, 66. "I just can't imagine why anyone would do such a thing."

Peter Eliasberg, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who argued for the cross' removal, also denounced the theft, saying the best way to resolve the dispute is through the court system.
"We uniformly condemn anybody or any group that went out and just sort of took the law into their own hands," he said...

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