YERMO • You can't miss the 10 Commandments if you are heading to Vegas. Like the Burma Shave placards of old, the signs stretch along a section of Interstate 15 near Yermo.
On Good Friday, a 16-foot cross will join them on private land across the freeway from the state' s agriculture inspection station.
"With all the hoopla over taking the 10 Commandments out of courtrooms I decided to put them in a place where people — like the ACLU — couldn't tell me what to do," Riverside resident Larry Robillard said. About four years ago he did just that.
Spurred by the recent Supreme Court decision to hear the Mojave Cross case, Robillard and his friends from the Harvest Christian Fellowship decided again to act. (The Supreme Court has decided to hear the ongoing American Civil Liberties Union case in October to remove a cross in the Mojave National Monument — erected in 1934 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars to honor fallen soldiers.)
Removal of the cross evokes strong emotions and controversy, most decrying the government's stance to destroy it. We want to "honor fallen soldiers when the ACLU wants to dishonor" them by removing the 76-year-old cross, Robillard said.
"I thought, guess what. I have another stretch of land out there and you know what, I am going to put a cross up. This is going to be 16-feet tall — twice as tall as the one they are trying to remove.
"While that cross is on public land about 60 miles further away and is only 8 feet tall, we have decided to erect one twice as tall on this land," he said.
Peter Eliasberg, managing attorney with the ACLU's Southern California chapter, said the group has no problem with people putting religious monuments on private property, and would in fact, go to court to defend their right to do so. Eliasberg said the group's intent is not to dishonor fallen soldiers but the ACLU objects to one religious group and not others being honored in the Mojave Cross monument.
"What our original intent was in this case was to have the government not take a step that says we're only honoring Christian soldiers," he said.
Robillard said his group will also place a Star of David alongside the cross with a four-foot by eight-foot sign proclaiming the cross and star as the: 'No Greater Love ... Memorial.'"
From the Bible verse John 15:13 which says "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends," the sign is also dedicated to firefighters and police.
Robillard saw firsthand how rescue personal are affected by the loss of their comrades. He was at Ground Zero after 9/11, serving as a chaplain for about 10 days, as rescuers searched for any survivors of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
And after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, "we went out ministering to the people who had lost their homes as well as serving police and fireman — bringing them hot meals and such."
"On Good Friday every year we go out and repair the 10 Commandment signs and clean them up. The wind knocks them down or damages them. Someone was even incensed enough to get off the highway and cut a few of them down," he said.
Erecting the cross will take about three hours, from 9 a.m. to noon and the public is invited to watch or even take part. A short dedication ceremony is planned for noon.
To reach the site, take the Yermo Road exit off I-15. Go to just past the old agriculture station and follow the dirt road to the left.
Additional reporting by Abby Sewell.