10th Circuit: Highway patrol memorial crosses are unconstitutional

American Atheists v. Duncan, No. 08-4061 (10th Cir. Aug. 18, 2010) [Google Viewer] | View opinion at 10th Circuit site.


The Utah Highway Patrol Association (‘UHPA’), with the permission of Utah state authorities, erected a number of twelve-foot high crosses on public land to memorialize fallen Utah Highway Patrol (‘UHP’) troopers. Plaintiffs-Appellants, American Atheists, Inc., a Texas non-profit organization, and three individual members of American Atheists who reside in Utah, challenge the legality of these memorials under the Establishment Clause of the federal constitution and Article I of Utah’s constitution. We hold that these memorials have the impermissible effect of conveying to the reasonable observer the message that the State prefers or otherwise endorses a certain religion. They therefore violate the Establishment Clause of the federal constitution. In light of this conclusion, we need not reach the separate question of whether these displays also violate Utah’s constitution.

The Salt Lake Tribune: “The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that 14 crosses placed along Utah highways to honor fallen Utah Highway Patrol troopers violate the U.S. Constitution.”