End the ACLU Assault on Veterans Memorials by Rees Lloyd

November 17, 2009


Rees recently wrote an op ed for a southern California newspaper (here) and invited me to post it. For those long time blog readers this is a story you’ve heard before, but for you newbies welcome to the terrordome.

On Veterans Day, many Americans visited veterans memorials as Americans have for years. Today, however, veterans memorials on public land are under threat from establishment of religion clause lawsuits.
These lawsuits are being filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on the behalf of individuals who complain that they are offended by the sight of a cross at a veterans memorial. Although generally unknown to most Americans, the ACLU seeks and receives millions in judge-ordered, taxpayer-paid attorneys’ fees in these cases.
The U.S. Supreme Court will render its decision this term in one such case (Buono v. Salazar) regarding a World War II veterans memorial cross in the Mojave Desert National Preserve (“Supreme Court at crossroads over fate of Mojave cross,” Oct. 8). A similar case involving a veterans memorial cross at Mount Soledad is before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Trunk, et al. v. U.S.). It also appears certain to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
At stake in these court cases is whether 300 million Americans shall have the right to choose how they will honor their war dead and other veterans or whether a veto power over those decisions shall be held by the ACLU or a single individual who claims “offense” at the sight of a cross honoring veterans. Thus, the importance of these court cases cannot be overstated.
However, I respectfully suggest that such issues, which fundamentally affect and shape our national culture and character, should not be decided by the courts. It is time for Congress to act to protect our veterans memorials from abusive Establishment Clause lawsuits by the ACLU, which has become the Taliban of American liberal secularism, and other fanatical organizations.
Congress is empowered under the Constitution to determine the jurisdiction of the courts other than the U.S. Supreme Court. Congress should exercise its authority to remove claims against veterans memorials and cemeteries from the jurisdiction of the courts. Congress should provide instead a right of redress before forums in which the public may participate and be heard, not just lawyers.
By doing so, Congress would also end the ACLU’s exploitation of the Civil Rights Attorney Fees Act of 1976. That is, by filing lawsuits against veterans memorials, the Boy Scouts, public seals, and public symbols of America’s history, the ACLU earns enormous profits from judge-ordered, taxpayer-paid attorney fee awards. The ACLU has used the threat of imposition of such attorney fees to coerce elected bodies to surrender to its demands without a fight, as the city of Redlands and the county of Los Angeles reluctantly did when the ACLU threatened to sue if they did not remove the cross from their official seals.
Riverside County, home to Riverside National Cemetery, has a particular interest in this issue. It is the decision of a U.S. district judge sitting in Riverside who ordered the Mojave Desert cross destroyed at the request of ACLU which is before the Supreme Court.
It was Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, who achieved legislation transferring the Mojave memorial site to private hands in exchange for five acres of private land to solve any perceived problem. The ACLU objected. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide.
It was veterans in American Legion Riverside Post 79 and District 21, which represents 6,000 wartime veterans in 22 posts in Riverside County, who sponsored American Legion Resolution 326, “Preserve Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial.” This resolution, which I authored, led to the Legion’s nationwide crusade to fight the ACLU in Congress and in the courts aided by the Alliance Defense Fund, Liberty Legal Institute, Thomas More Law Center and other organizations.
Furthermore, this effort was inspired by the late, legendary American Legionnaire and Riverside native Robert J. “Uncle Bobby” Castillo, a Purple Heart survivor of the D-Day landing, who said: “How can the ACLU sue our veterans memorials here in California at Mojave and at Mount Soledad? What about Arlington? Will they sue Arlington Cemetery next? Will they sue the American Cemetery in France at Normandy Beach? There are over 9,000 crosses and Stars of David there. We can’t let the ACLU do this. We have to fight them. My buddies are buried there.”
Congress, the courts, and all of us who are free because of veterans like Castillo, should hear, and heed, that good man’s heartfelt words.
Rees Lloyd, of Banning, is a civil rights attorney and former ACLU of Southern California Foundation staff attorney. He is the co-founder and director of the Defense of Veterans Memorials Project of the American Legion Department of California.

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