Cross Is Not Secular Symbol, AU Tells Appeals Court

The cross is a Christian symbol and Utah state government should not try to use it as a secular memorial marker, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has told a federal appeals court.

Americans United and allied religious leaders and organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that Utah officials should not use crosses along highways to memorialize state highway patrol officers who have died in the line of duty.

State officials insisted that the Christian symbol is secular and can be used regardless of the personal religious beliefs of the officer being honored.

U.S. District Judge David Same ruled in November 2007 in American Atheists, Inc. v. Duncan that the cross is a “secular symbol of death” and held that Utah officials and the Utah Highway Patrol Association can continue to erect the 12-foot crosses.

The Americans United brief says governmental display of the cross violates the constitutional mandate of government neutrality toward religion.

Joining Americans United on the brief are the Anti-Defamation League, the Hindu American Foundation, The Interfaith Alliance, the Union for Reform Judaism and Dr. Eugene Fisher, retired associate director, Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.