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Atheists vs. American Legion: The Legality of Utah's Highway Crosses

Atheists vs. American Legion: The Legality of Utah's Highway Crosses

"...though they're privately funded, they are on public property."

Atheists continue to rail against the presence of 13 crosses on Utah's public highways. While the legal debate between the Utah Highway Patrol and its supporters and American Atheists (the organization staunchly opposed to the crosses) has gone back and forth for some time now, a 2010 ruling declared the religious symbols "unconstitutional." But, the debate is far from over.

Just days before the United States celebrates Memorial Day, the American Legion has announced its plans to enter into the debate in support of the crosses.  For history's sake, these markers were constructed in 1998 to memorialize fallen Utah Highway Patrol staff (marking the spots where they had perished). According to Yahoo! News:

Atheist and humanist organizations have taken the crosses to court as a violation of separation of church and state because, even though they're privately funded, they are on public property. The case is called American Atheists v. Davenport.

At first, a federal judge overturned a district court ruling against the crosses. But last August, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision and agreed with the district court that the crosses represent an "unconstitutional government endorsement" of the Christian faith above other beliefs.

The court's decision was largely based on the fact that these crosses are many times larger than normal roadside cross-shaped death markers.

An American Atheists blog responding to attacks as to why they hated crosses called the memorial monuments "highly offensive," and that for crosses to represent troopers who could possibly be of another faith or no faith is insulting.

But according to a Christian Science Monitor article, the families of each fallen Utah trooper were consulted before the erection of the crosses and no one objected. A photo of each trooper is also used at the site.

The fact that none of the families had objections is compelling. The American Legion hopes that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear this contentious case and make a final determination. Below, see commentary on the matter from Rev. Dr. Myke Crowder and Rev. Rob Schenck from the National Clergy Council and Faith in Action:

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