Highway Cross Memorials Challenged in Court

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Jennifer LeClaire

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The Cross of Jesus Christ continues to offend many. That’s why the American Center for Law and Justice on Monday filed an amicus brief
urging the Supreme Court of the United States to take a case in which
an appeals court declared putting crosses along Utah highways
unconstitutional.

Crosses placed to commemorate the death of Utah Highway Patrol officers and urge
motorists to drive safely do not violate the Establishment Clause of
the U.S. Constitution as was asserted under a recent ruling from the
U.S. Court of Appeals of the Tenth Circuit, the American Center for Law argues.

 

“This is just
another troubling example of the courts being used to remove symbols to
honor those who have given their lives in service to others—in this
case, Utah Highway Patrol officers,” says Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ. “The
mere existence of a religious symbol in a public place need not trigger
a constitutional crisis. The Supreme Court recently noted that the
Constitution does not prohibit, but rather accommodates such symbols.
We’re hopeful the high court will take this case and reverse the appeals
court decision, clearing the way for the highway crosses to remain in
place.”

Here’s the background: The Utah Highway Patrol Association, a private,
nonreligious organization, erected Latin crosses that conspicuously
displayed, along with the Highway Patrol logo, the names, pictures,
ranks, badge numbers, service information, and years of death of Utah
Highway Patrol officers who died in the line of duty. The association
erected the crosses in locations safely accessible to the public that
were as close as possible to the sites where the officers died. The
crosses were intended to serve as memorials to the officers’ service and
sacrifice and to remind drivers of the importance of driving safely.

In
its brief backing a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, the ACLJ
contends the Utah crosses are constitutional and reflect what the high
court decided just a year ago.


In April 2010, in the case of Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, et al., v. Buono, (08-472), the Supreme Court ruled
that a World War I memorial in California’s Mojave Desert that features
a memorial cross can remain in place. A plurality opinion by Justice
Anthony Kennedy observed: “A cross by the side of a public highway
marking, for instance, the place where a state trooper perished need not
be taken as a statement of governmental support for sectarian beliefs.
The Constitution does not oblige government to avoid any public
acknowledgment of religion’s role in society . . . Rather, it leaves
room to accommodate divergent values within a constitutionally
permissible framework.”

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