11 January 2011

Veterans Sue Obama Administration Over 76 Year Old War Memorial: VFW Wants Obama to Restore Mojave Desert Cross

/PRNewswire/ -- Liberty Institute, representing the VFW Department of California and VFW Post 385, just filed a lawsuit against the Obama Administration because it refuses to transfer ownership of the land on which stood the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial to the VFW, as directed by a 2003 Act of Congress. The Obama Administration also refused to allow the VFW to rebuild the memorial after vandals destroyed it in May 2010, and it opposed the VFW's intervention into the lawsuit brought by the ACLU. The ACLU is attempting to permanently remove the VFW's Memorial as the case returns to the district court at the U.S. Supreme Court's direction.

"The way our government has treated the veterans in this case is a disgrace to their service and dedication," said Kelly Shackelford, president/CEO of Liberty Institute. "Members of the VFW and those this Memorial represents paid for this land with their own blood, sweat, and tears."

The U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in April 2010 reversed the rulings of the district court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which had demanded the removal of the Mojave Desert Memorial, and sent the case back to the district court for further consideration.

As Justice Kennedy observed in the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Memorial, the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial "evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies are compounded if the fallen are forgotten."

The VFW then filed a motion to intervene in the district court case, which was denied after the Obama administration and the ACLU together opposed the veterans' attempt to defend their own Memorial on land transferred to them by an Act of Congress. The Memorial remains in a vandalized state since criminals tore it down on May 9, weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling protecting the Memorial.

"This land belongs to the VFW, and the court should honor the congressional act that conveys the land and the memorial to the veterans," said Ted Cruz, a Partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and co-counsel with Liberty Institute. "The veterans have an acute interest in restoring and preserving this 76-year-old memorial to those brave American soldiers who gave their lives in World War I."

"This is our land, our memorial and we want it back," said James Rowoldt, State Adjutant/Quartermaster of the VFW Department of California. "To deny the veterans a chance to defend our own is to continue to dishonor those for whom the Memorial stands."

In a disturbing trend, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the same court that originally ruled against the Mojave Desert Memorial, recently ruled that the Mount Soledad Memorial, a 43-foot-tall veterans memorial in San Diego, is also unconstitutional. Liberty Institute represents The American Legion as an amicus in the case, and launched a petition at www.DontTearMeDown.com asking President Obama to appeal the disgraceful ruling.

Liberty Institute works to uphold Constitutional and First Amendment religious freedoms and free speech in the courts. Liberty Institute represented all the major veterans groups as amici in the Supreme Court case of Salazar v. Buono involving this 76-year-old war memorial.

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