April 18, 2012
The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers has threatened to file a lawsuit and possibly hold protests outside the gates of California's Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base if two 13-foot crosses planted atop a remote hill in the middle of the base are not taken down, Fox News reports. Originally erected in 2003 by seven Marines grieving over lives lost in the war on terror, the site of the crosses has become "a place for the Marines to grieve and to grow, to let go of their burdens of what they had in their soul, so they can go back down that hill and back into battle and put their own lives on the line," according to Marine widow Karen Mendoza. Until last fall, when a newspaper report detailed the location and posted a picture of the crosses, "these two memorials [had] been sitting out here largely unknown outside of a very small group of Marines and family here at Camp Pendleton," said retired Marine Colonel Nick Marano. As the site of the crosses became more known, several groups filed complaints with the Marines, arguing it was a violation of separation of church and state and that the crosses should be moved to private land and replaced with flags or other symbols. Amid the threats from the MAAF and their supporters, many Marines continue to fight to protect the crosses; the commandant of the Marines is expected to rule on the controversy any day.