Utah Memorial Crosses Ruled To Be In Violation of Constitution

Utah Memorial Crosses Ruled To Be In Violation of Constitution

Crosses standing along Utah highways were found to be in opposition to the U.S. Constitution by a federal appeals court last Wednesday.  The 14 crosses, located along Utah highways, were built in remembrance of fallen state troopers.  The court found that the crosses convey that Utah has a statewide preference for the Christian faith. 

The most recent ruling overturned a 2007 decision by a federal district judge.  The 2007 ruling stated that the crosses showed a secular message about death, and did not represent a state endorsement of the any religion.  However, the three-judge panel in Denver’s 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed.   They ruled that any “reasonable observer” would associate the crosses with a preference for Christianity.  Because the crosses were built on state land, and endorsed with the State Highway Patrol’s logo, their display was found to be in violation of the Constitution.

In 2006, Utah passed a resolution that stated the cross was a nonreligious secular symbol representing death.  However, the state legislation has been unable to overrule the federal courts belief that the crosses used in this instance were a symbol of a religious nature.

A group representing atheists from Texas, brought the matter of the Utah crosses to the courtroom.  The group’s Utah attorney, Brian Barnard, has said that his clients are not anti-highway patrol, but believe the fallen officers could be honored in ways that do not explicitly emphasize religion.

It has been speculated that the crosses may be moved to private land, or that public land may be transferred to private ownership to allow the crosses to remain.

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