A controversial cross that once stood on federal land in the Mojave Desert has been recovered in northern California, authorities confirm.
The cross, which was stolen in 2010, was to be reinstalled at its original location Sunday at Sunrise Rock in the Mojave Desert, the Liberty Institute said Thursday.
The cross, erected in 1998, raised questions about the separation of church and state before it was stolen in 2010. It was found Wednesday strapped to a fence post near Half Moon Bay, officials with the Mojave National Preserve announced.
The 7-foot metal pipe cross was identified by Henry Sandoz, the structure's creator. Sandoz and his wife Wanda were to be honored at Sunday's ceremony.
A former National Park Service employee and the American Civil Liberties Union had sued to have the cross removed in 1999, saying it represented a federal establishment of religion. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2010 resulted in a compromise that allowed the cross to stay.
Shortly afterward, the cross was stolen and was not recovered until this week, despite the offer of a $25,000 reward. The cross currently is in police custody, the institute said.
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