On Monday, a federal district court in California approved a settlement ending the long-running litigation in Salazar v. Buono, the Mojave Desert Cross case. The case, the most recent Supreme Court ruling on public religious displays, involves a Latin cross on a war memorial on federal land in the Mojave Desert. After a district court enjoined the government from displaying the cross as a violation of the Establishment Clause, the government attempted to convey the land to a private association, the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The district court ruled that the conveyance violated the terms of the injunction, but, in 2010, a divided Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further consideration.
This week’s settlement allows the government to convey the land to the VFW in exchange for other property. The National Park Service will install and maintain a fence with signage indicating that the land is privately owned and maintain roads allowing for “safe and suitable” public access. The government will not replace the cross, which someone stole after the Supreme Court’s decision, but the new owners are of course free to do so, and in fact, the VFW has a cross ready. The government will restore the plaque designating the spot as a national war memorial and has reserved the right to have Park Rangers explain to visitors what they’re looking at. H/T: Religion Clause.