For Immediate Release
Shurtleff asks U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Highway Cross Case
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff asked the U.S. Supreme Court today to decide whether fallen state troopers can be honored with memorial crosses placed on state land. American Atheists, Inc. sued the Utah Highway Patrol Association and claimed the crosses violate the First Amendment by establishing a religion.
“With two simple lines the highway crosses remind us of the ultimate sacrifice made by troopers while trying to protect us,” says Shurtleff. “Before now no other court has ever held that memorial crosses establish a religion. The crosses only establish a trooper died in the line of duty.”
The Attorney General’s Office is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case because the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the crosses violated the constitution. A three-way split currently exists between circuit courts on which legal test applies to the passive display of religious imagery.
Former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz has agreed to represent Utah in the case pro bono. Cruz has argued nine times before the U.S. Supreme Court and is considered one of the nation’s foremost experts on religion establishment cases. In this petition, Cruz argues the crosses do not establish a religion because “the passive memorials coerce no one to do anything.”
The petition also notes the 10th Circuit decision could ban crosses on highways and cemeteries in Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah while they would be permissible in every other state. “Thus a driver traveling an interstate through several circuits might observe roadside memorials containing crosses in one State, but a mile down the road, the very same memorials would be deemed unconstitutional.”
The petition asks the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify the appropriate tests for establishing or endorsing a religion and whether the memorial crosses in Utah establish a religion. You can download and read the brief here.