The American Federal Appeals Court has found that highway crosses erected on public roads in Utah are unconstitutional and must be removed.
The Utah Highway Patrol Association (UHPA) has erected 14 crosses since 1998 to honour dead highway troopers. Even though the UHPA is privately funded and the crosses are privately maintained, they are erected on public land and contain the state insignia.
The Court ruled yesterday (18 August) that passing motorists would view the crosses as "a government endorsement of Christianity" and therefore, they are unconstitutional.
The Court rejected the notion that many other roads throughout the USA contain memorial crosses to honour dead citizens. The Court found that the crosses in Utah, by their size and erection on public property "are far different from the more humble spirit of small roadside crosses".
A challenge to the constitutional validity was first mounted by a group called American Atheist Inc in 2005. A Federal Judge in Salt Lake City found that the crosses were secular in nature and symbols of sacrifice in 2007, and allowed them to remain.
The decision of a three-judge panel of the 10 circuit US Court of Appeal yesterday reversed that decision.