Thursday, August 19, 2010

Religion: Court rules it is unconstitutional for a Cross to be used as memorial to fallen Utah Highway Patrol officers

The Anti-Defamation League today welcomed an opinion by the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals holding that the cross is a Christian religious symbol and that it is unconstitutional for a state to allow its placement with a prominent government seal on public land as a memorial to fallen Utah Highway Patrol officers.

Nina Simone Grotch, Interim Regional Director, said:

This case forced the appeals court to rule on a bizarre question: Is the cross an inherently Christian symbol, or can it be merely a generic symbol representing death? The fact that a lower court had found that the cross was a generic symbol of death was as deeply troubling as it was historically inaccurate and offensive to both Christians and non-Christians alike.

With its decision, the Court of Appeals corrected this critical error. We are pleased that the court reaffirmed the common-sense notion that a cross is a religious symbol and found that, as a consequence, its display on public land with an official seal by the state of Utah was unconstitutional.

Of course, we are mindful that this case involves the placement of crosses along public highways by the Utah Highway Patrol Association, a private organization acting with the permission of the State of Utah, to memorialize officers who fell in the line of duty. We hope that a more fitting symbol can be found to honor their sacrifice.

The case is American Atheists v. Duncan. As part of a coalition, ADL submitted a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that the cross is a long-standing religious symbol, cannot be interpreted as a secular symbol, and that the State's displays in this case show a governmental religious preference in violation of the First Amendment.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

Source: Anti-Defamation League