The Supreme Court let stand yesterday a lower court decision that is outrageously hostile to common expressions of religious faith, Utah Highway Patrol Association v. American Atheists.
When a state trooper in Utah dies in the line of duty, the Utah Highway Patrol Association (UHPA) — a private organization for troopers and families — erects a roadside cross with the trooper’s name, badge number, date of death, and highway patrol’s logo.
These crosses are erected with the families’ blessing, and all 13 at issue in this case were for troopers of the Mormon faith.
Lawyers for American Atheists, Inc., a radical organization dedicated to eradicating religious influence in American culture, argued that the State of Utah’s permitting UHPA to erect these crosses violates the Establishment Clause, even though the state included a disclaimer that it did not endorse any message in the memorials.
Although the district court sided with Utah, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit reversed, holding that a cross is a symbol of Christianity, and therefore stand-alone crosses on public land are an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff retained one of the greatest Supreme Court lawyers in the country, former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz (currently running for U.S. Senate) to represent the state.