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Henry Sandoz and the new, 7-foot steel cross.
Liberty Institute/AP
Henry Sandoz and the new, 7-foot steel cross.

The cross returns

Religious Liberty | A long legal battle over the Mojave Desert monument comes to a happy end

Issue: "Divided we stand," Dec. 1, 2012

Hardy supporters reinstated a World War I memorial cross in the Mojave Desert on Veterans Day—after a 13-year battle over the constitutionality of a religious symbol on federal ground.

More than 100 people showed up for the ceremony—including cross caretakers Henry and Wanda Sandoz, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), attorneys from the Liberty Institute, and an honor guard.

The Sandozes have taken care of the cross since 1984 when they promised a World War I veteran they would watch over it. In 2001, the American Civil Liberties Union sued VFW, calling the cross unconstitutional because it violated the separation of church and state. Throughout the court process, the cross was bagged and covered in a plywood box. 

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A 2010 Supreme Court ruling allowed for the VFW to transfer the federal land beneath the cross, allowing for the cross to stand on private property. But the cross was stolen days after the ruling. 

The land transfer finally was completed early in November, and the stolen cross was found in Northern California. But Henry Sandoz decided to put up a newly made cross for the ceremony.

The site is now fenced off and includes a plaque stating that the cross is a memorial for World War I veterans.

“We are so, so happy that it’s going up and staying up without opposition since the Veterans of Foreign Wars owns it now,” Wanda Sandoz said. “We are so happy that it all came together and the veterans can have their memorial now.”

Angela Lu
Angela Lu

Angela is a reporter for WORLD Magazine who lives and works in Taiwan. She enjoys cooking, reading, and storytelling. Follow Angela on Twitter @angela818.


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