San Francisco, CA, United States (4E) – A stolen war symbol that used to be the center of a lawsuit over the display of religious symbols on public land has been recovered this week in northern California.
Authorities reported Thursday that the Mojave Cross, which was taken from its California desert location two years ago, has been found 500 miles away tied to a post near Half Moon Bay in San Francisco.
Linda Slater, a spokeswoman with the Mojave National Preserve, said “It was not easy to pick out identifying features to examine, but they are now confirming that it is in fact the Mojave Cross.”
The cross, first erected in 1934 to honor the fallen soldiers of war, caused controversy about the separation of church and state before it was stolen in 2010. It has been reconstructed several times.
A federal judge in 2001 had the six-foot metal cross covered with plywood after a lawsuit was filed in 1999 by a former National Park Service employee and the American Civil Liberties Union stating the symbol violates the law that prohibit government preference for a certain religion, however, the cross was ruled constitutional in 2010.
The National Park Service then provided a piece of federal land where the cross was raised for the California Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The cross, known as the White Cross World War I Memorial, has been identified by Henry Sandoz, the structure’s creator, after authorities recovered the item.
A replacement cross will be erected Sunday in a special rededication ceremony near the Mojave National Preserve.
Despite a $25,000 reward, the cross was not recovered until this week.