Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Supreme Court Says No Crosses; Arlington Neither?

The U.S. Supreme Court let stand a ruling by Denver's 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that all memorial crosses placed along Utah highways in honor of fallen state troopers must be demolished because the land is government-owned. So, what about government-owned Arlington National Cemetery where thousands of crosses memorialize America's fallen?

For background, read Federal Judges Rule Crosses Unconstitutional

-- From "U.S. Court Ignores Appeal on Crosses for Fallen Police" by The Associated Press 10/31/11

The justices voted 8-1 Monday to reject an appeal from Utah and a state troopers' group that wanted the court to throw out the ruling and take a more permissive view of religious symbols on public land.

Since 1998, the private Utah Highway Patrol Association has paid for and erected more than a dozen memorial crosses, most of them on state land. Texas-based American Atheists Inc. and three of its Utah members sued the state in 2005.

The federal appeals court in Denver said the crosses were an unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity by the Utah state government.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Justices Decline Case on Highway Crosses" by Adam Liptak, New York Times 10/31/11

As is its custom, the court gave no reasons for declining to hear the case. Justice Clarence Thomas issued a 19-page dissent, saying the court had rejected “an opportunity to provide clarity to an establishment-clause jurisprudence in shambles.”

The Supreme Court’s establishment-clause jurisprudence has been shifting and confusing. The two appeals the court declined to hear on Monday — Davenport v. American Atheists, No. 10-1297, and Utah Highway Patrol Association v. American Atheists, No. 10-1276 — would have given the court an opportunity to clarify the murky guidance it has provided in this area.

. . . that question has divided the justices as recently as last year, in Salazar v. Buono, a decision concerning a cross that had served as a war memorial in a remote part of the Mojave Desert.

“A Latin cross is not merely a reaffirmation of Christian beliefs,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote, joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. By way of example, Justice Kennedy wrote that “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 government support for sectarian beliefs.”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Wimmer, conservative group to protest crosses decision" by Melinda Rogers, The Salt Lake Tribune 11/2/11

A Utah legislator will partner with a conservative group on Thursday to protest U.S. Supreme Court justices’ decision not to hear a contentious First Amendment case over the appropriateness of placing 12-foot-high crosses on public property in Utah to memorialize state troopers killed in the line of duty.

Carl Wimmer, a Republican from Herriman who is running for Utah’s 4th Congressional District, will “express deep disappointment” during a stop in Murray Thursday beside one of the highway crosses that is scheduled to come down. Appearing with Wimmer will be Tom McClusky, vice president for the Family Research Council Action, a Washington-based organization that promotes faith in public policy.

“The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case could have significant implications for national memorials and monuments across the nation, including, but not limited to, the crosses on headstones in Arlington Cemetery.”

Wimmer’s announcement of disappointment mirrors a similar statement by Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who pushed the high court to take on the case, arguing that the highway crosses should be displayed.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Supreme Court Rejects Utah Highway Cross Case" by Eryn Sun, Christian Post Reporter 10/31/11

[The private Utah Highway Patrol Association] clarified that crosses were chosen [as symbols] because they were generally used to commemorate the dead in cemeteries and specifically used by uniformed services to memorialize fallen men.

“Only the cross effectively and simultaneously conveyed the message of death, honor, remembrance, gratitude, sacrifice, and safety that the association wished to communicate to the public,” Justice Thomas explained.

A divided Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately ruled in favor of the atheists and denied the association’s request for appeal, stating that even though the cross memorials had a secular purpose, they would nonetheless “convey to a reasonable observer that the state of Utah [was] endorsing Christianity,” because the cross was the “preeminent symbol of Christianity.”

Additionally, to a motorist driving by the symbols at more than 55 miles per hour, they would only notice the cross, not the biographical information displayed.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Supremes slap down memorials to fallen officers" by Dave Tombers, World Net Daily 10/31/11

[In] an April 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Salazar vs. Buono, that allowed a cross-shaped memorial in the Mojave Desert to remain . . . the high court specifically addressed roadside crosses honoring fallen state troopers.

The Supreme Court said, "The goal of avoiding governmental endorsement does not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm. 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," that court ruling said.

The Family Research Council, which wrote a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the Utah Highway Patrol Association, said today, "SCOTUS Lets Stand One of Worst Religious Liberty Assaults in American History."

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.