Court blocks removal of Utah highway crosses
SALT LAKE CITY — A Denver appeals court has stayed an order that would remove 14 memorial crosses from Utah’s highways intended to honor fallen officers and encourage safe driving.
The ruling gives the Utah attorneys general’s office 90 days to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the 12-foot-high memorials are unconstitutional.
In August, a three-judge appeals court panel said the crosses represent an unconstitutional endorsement of religion and that the crosses, which bear the logo of the Utah Highway Patrol, should come down.
Attorneys for the Utah Highway Patrol Association, the Utah Department of Public Safety and two other state agencies sought a rehearing before the appeals court’s full panel of judges. The petition was denied in a 5-4 decision issued in December.
The Texas-based American Atheists Inc. and three of its Utah members sued the state in 2005 over the use of the highway patrol logo, contending the structures imply that the troopers who died at each location were Christians.
Utah attorneys have argued the memorials honor officers who lost their lives and encourage safe driving.
The American Atheists did not oppose the stay because the state agreed not to erect any new crosses while seeking a review of the case by the nation’s highest court, the group’s attorney Brian Barnard said.