Roadside Crosses Ruling Could Jeopardize Arlington Military Crosses

August 25, 2010 05:43

Denver, CO – The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against 12-foot-high cross displays honoring fallen members of the Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) distorts the First Amendment Establishment Clause.

All of the crosses are privately funded, though some are standing on state-owned property. The UHP Association created the memorials to honor fallen patrol members and were willing to display another symbol if requested by the family of the fallen officer. The court ruled, however, that the 13 crosses throughout the state, each bearing the name and badge number of deceased officers, sent a religious message to motorists on the state’s highways. The opinion states, “We hold that these memorials have the impermissible effect of conveying to the reasonable observer the message that the State prefers or otherwise endorses a certain religion.”

Since 1998, two members of the Utah Highway Patrol Association have organized the placement of monuments on Utah roadsides to honor fallen troopers. Before erecting each cross, the group consults the family of the fallen trooper about erecting a large cross. No family has objected to the cross or requested a different symbol. The plaintiffs who brought the suit are atheists.

If this reasoning stands, it could call into question the numerous military crosses and displays in cemeteries honoring our fallen soldiers, including Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. The government has not yet filed an appeal. The state could either ask for a review by the full panel of appeals court judges or petition for review before the U.S. Supreme Court. Liberty Counsel will file an amicus brief if the case continues.

Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “A cross is a common symbol found in cemeteries throughout the country. This ruling by the court is out of sync with the intent of the First Amendment and runs against the stream of history. If this ruling stands, then the crosses, Stars of David, or other religious symbols in cemeteries are placed in jeopardy. To rid the landscape of memorial crosses would run counter to the First Amendment and place the government on a collision course with religion.”

Help Make A Difference By Sharing These Articles On Facebook, Twitter And Elsewhere: