In this file photo taken June 2007, Dale Ipson of DATS Trucking applies a date to a cross memorializing a fallen UHP trooper that was erected near I-15 in Washington County. (Nancy Perkins, Deseret News)
American Atheists Inc., has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to deny Utah's request to decide whether fallen state troopers may be honored with roadside crosses on public land.
The group's attorney, Brian M. Barnard, said there's no reason for the nation's highest court to hear the case because the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has already ruled the crosses violate the doctrine of separation of church and state. That court also declined to reconsider the decision in December 2010 and this past April.
"My clients believe the deceased troopers should be honored for their sacrifice," he said. "They should be and can be honored with appropriate memorials that do not emphasize religion and do not promote one faith to the exclusion of all other religions."
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and the Utah Highway Patrol Association this spring asked the Supreme Court to review the case, arguing a three-way split exists between circuit courts on which legal test applies to the passive display of religious imagery.
The state asked the high court to set aside the "endorsement test" in favor of the "coercion test," arguing passive memorials don't coerce anyone to do anything. Utah also argues that no court has held the memorial crosses unconstitutional or that they establish a religion.
Barnard contends in his 68-page brief that the issue has not come up before.
"Indeed, we are aware of no other federal appellate rulings even addressing whether roadside cross displays like the ones here violate the Establishment Clause, much less holding that such displays are constitutional," he wrote.
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SOURCE: Deseret News