In 1934, a gritty prospector named J. Riley Bembry gathered a couple of his fellow World War I veterans at Sunrise Rock. Together they erected the cross, in honor of their fallen comrades. The memorial has been privately maintained ever since, with small groups still occasionally meeting to remember the nation's veterans.
A wrinkle developed in 1994, when the federal government declared the surrounding area a national preserve. With the cross now located on newly public land, the memorial soon caught the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union. Working with Frank Buono, a retired park ranger turned professional activist, the ACLU demanded that the National Park Service tear down the cross.
Mr. Buono insists that his seeing the monument ("two to four times a year") violates his civil rights. A federal district court found in his favor, and the decision was subsequently upheld by the Ninth Circuit. Last-ditch attempts to deed Sunrise Rock over to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars were struck down in April. Defenders of the memorial hope to appeal, but their options are narrowing.
But that's not even the real story. As Levenick details, the ACLU has turned a tidy profit on the case, since "the taxpayer once again ended up paying the ACLU for pressing a highly controversial church-state lawsuit."
Great reporting on a fantastic story.