Congress condemned the theft of a Mojave cross dedicated to the nation's veterans, in a resolution passed Tuesday.
The cross used to stand in a remote part of the Mojave National Preserve in California as a memorial to soldiers killed during World War I. It was erected in 1934 by members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
"The cross was not established by the government, but by veterans to honor veterans of all wars," Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., said on the House floor Tuesday.
Authorities said sometime between May 8 and 9, a thief or thieves stole the cross 10 days after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to order its removal. The case stems from a former National Park Service employee who had complained the cross violated the separation of church and state and filed a lawsuit.
The cross was stolen from Sunrise Rock, which is government land located about 10 miles south of Interstate 15 off Cima Road.
"We support this measure's condemnation of that theft and urge all federal law enforcement officials to continue the efforts to recover the cross and bring those responsible for the theft to justice," Rep. Donn Christensen, D-U.S. Virgin Islands, told reporters.
A lower court is reconsidering a plan by Congress to transfer the acreage of federal land where the stolen cross used to stand to private ownership by the VFW.
"Legislation was approved by Congress and signed into law that would resolve this problem by removing the land from government ownership, and it is time to complete this process that has gone on for more than a decade now," Lewis said.
"It is time to give our veterans groups the ability to replace this important memorial to those who gave their lives to defend our nation and freedoms," he said.
Park Service officials have asked anyone with information about the theft to call 252-6120. Liberty Legal has offered a $125,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible.