Monday, November 3, 2008

Supporters defend troopers' memorials from atheists:Organization sued to have roadside crosses banished

When members of the Utah Highway Patrol lose their lives in the line of duty, their families often place roadside memorial crosses in their memory and honor. Now support for the memorials is flooding into the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in response to an appeal by atheists who contend they are unconstitutional.The nonprofit Alliance Defense Fund, which is defending the memorials, says friend-of-the-court briefs have been coming into the appeals court on behalf of the troopers' families."One of the friend-of-the-court briefs was filed by Robert Mackey, who organized a 1995 effort to erect 14 crosses to commemorate the death of his son and other firefighters who died while fighting a Colorado fire in 1994," the organization said. "The American Legion; the Utah Sheriffs' Association; Utah legislators together with the city of Santa Fe, N.M.; the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty together with the states of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma; and the Foundation for Moral Law also filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the memorials."The ADF's brief representing the Utah Highway Patrol Association against demands from the group American Atheists also has been filed."It's ridiculous that a small group of offended atheists would seek to stop the families of slain troopers from honoring their loved ones as they fit," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Byron Babione. "Stamping out these symbols of sacrifice is the first step to forgetting the people who daily risk their lives to keep America safe. The groups and officials filing briefs in support of the memorials underscore the importance of this case."American Atheists Inc. filed suit against the Utah Highway Patrol and Utah Transportation Department in 2005. In 2006, the court allowed the Utah Highway Patrol Association to intervene in the case to defend the memorials. UHPA is represented by ADF attorneys, ADF-allied attorney Frank Mylar and the National Legal Foundation.A district court judge in 2007 ruled against the atheists,finding no state or federal constitutional violations. He ruled that no public money or property was used to support the memorial cross program, but atheists, dissatisfied, appealed.The district court ruling said, "It is not the place of law or government, using Establishment Clause jurisprudence, to exhibit hostility toward religion."The Utah Highway Patrol Association is a private organization that supports highway patrol officers and their families.
As in the days of Noah....

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