The American Atheists, Inc., the 'premier organization laboring for the civil liberties of Atheists' has been dedicated and working hard since 1963 to keep our separation of church and state rights from being violated. Following is just one example of their promotion efforts to erase Christianity from the public.
In 1998, the Utah Highway Patrol Association (UHPA) in a gesture of memory and gratitude began putting up 12-foot high crosses near places where Utah highway patrol officers died in the line of duty. Each cross showed the Highway Patrol Officer's insignia as well as his or her name.
The crosses are paid for by the Utah Highway Patrol Association with private dollars. They are privately owned and maintained. According to Lt. Lee Perry, U.H.P. Section One Commander, when someone drives by, they will recognize the crosses as symbolic for a person who died.
The crosses were the idea of Perry and his friend, former police officer Robert Kirby, now a columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune. Though the cross is not commonly used by Utah’s dominant religion, the LDS Church, they chose it because it could convey quickly to motorists a 'message of death, sacrifice, and honor.'
The program was implemented in freedom without interference from the State of Utah which "neither approves or disapproves of the memorial marker." If allowed to continue, the practice could through the years spread to other states as a reminder for highway safety in dedication for fallen officers. (See Washington State Patrol, Service with humility.)
"I can't tell you how much this means to the memories of these 14 men and their families," said UHP Capt. Ron Ostler.
American Atheists, Inc., can't believe that crosses are not necessarily Christian as an acceptable symbol of burial. They argued in Utah federal district court that the white crosses weren't chosen simply to honor comrades but that since those crosses have official Utah Highway Patrol logos and were on public property, they were therefore a government endorsement of Christianity.
In late 2007, the court decided that while the cross retained a religious meaning when in a religious context, it was understood and used by all as essentially a secular symbol representing death and/or burial when used as a memorial:
"...the cross has attained a secular status as Americans have used it to honor the place where fallen soldiers and citizens lay buried, or had fatal accidents, regardless of their religious belief. And the progression of the cross from a religious to a secular symbol continues as crosses are increasingly used to symbolize death in advertising campaigns, films, television, and seasonal holiday decorations -- frequently having nothing to do with religion or a particular religious belief. Consequently, the court finds a reasonable observer, aware of the history and context of the community would not view the memorial crosses as a government endorsement of religion."American Atheists didn't buy the argument but believe that every time they have to look at one or more of those crosses, then their separation of church and state rights are being violated. They appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, and the Tenth Circuit sided with them.
A three-judge panel said in its 38-page ruling (American Atheists v. Duncan (08-4061) that a "reasonable observer" would conclude that the crosses indicate Christianity was being endorsed by government and to "fear that Christians are likely to receive preferential treatment from the UHP."
Though many roadsides show crosses placed by private individuals honoring a dead relative killed in car accidents, the court stated:
"The mere fact that the cross is a common symbol used in roadside memorials does not mean it is a secular symbol. The massive size of the crosses displayed on Utah's rights-of-way and public property unmistakably conveys a message of endorsement, proselytization, and aggrandizement of religion that is far different from the more humble spirit of small roadside crosses."
David Silverman, the Vice President and National Spokesperson for American Atheists, Inc, said that his organization didn't want this fight but "How anybody could say crosses are not Christian is beyond all of us. It's completely inappropriate."
When Silverman heard the ADF might take this fight to the Supreme Court, he thought it was the wrong thing for them to do, "If they bring it to the U.S. Supreme Court to have the Court decide if crosses are not Christian, that will be a waste of time and a waste of Utah's money!"
The crosses will remain up until all appeals are exhausted.
Let Us Pray. Almighty God, we ask from James 1:5 that You would grant wisdom and victory to the Alliance Defense Fund attorneys who will be appealing the Tenth Circuit Court ruling that favored American Atheists Inc, and ordered the removal of crosses from the roadside memorial that honored fallen Utah troopers, saying that any Christian symbol on government property violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. God help the Supreme Court overturn this, so we don’t have to fear removal of the crosses at Arlington Cemetery next. We pray for a victory for the ADF, in Jesus Name, Amen. (taken from CHAPS)
Based on precedent, the ADF will most probably win at the Supreme Court as shown last April in regard to the Mojave cross, (Salazar v. Buono), a Latin cross which was placed atop a prominent rock outcropping in 1934 to honor war dead.
After that ruling, vandals sneaked out into the desert to cut down and steal the cross.
Fortunately, after Utah's crosses are allowed to stay, they won't be so easy to make disappear.
For original article and references, click here.