Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Cross Out Memorials in Utah

Mike Rivers, Utah director of American Atheists has filed a suit against the Utah Highway Patrol and the Utah Department of Transportation for the use of crosses as memorials to highway patrol officers lost in the line of duty. According to the plaintiffs, they are not against the memorials, just the fact that they are created on crosses and that some of those memorials are on state land.
News of the suit spread quickly through the UHP community and among friends and family of fallen troopers. "Generally speaking, the crosses are to memorialize these officers who have given the ultimate sacrifice to the state," UHP spokesman Jeff Nigbur said. Nigbur said a large number of the crosses are located on private property near public highways.
As for the religious symbolism, Nigbur said, the cross symbol was chosen as a general symbol to memorialize the fallen.
"We chose the cross because the cross is the international sign of peace, and it has no religious significance in it," Nigbur said.
"I think that's less than honest," said Salt Lake civil rights attorney Brian Barnard, who represents the atheists.
Barnard said the cross is a symbol of Christianity. He has no objection to memorializing fallen troopers, but Barnard said there has to be a better, non-denominational way to do it.
"I don't think there's any question that these troopers should be honored. They have given the ultimate sacrifice," Barnard said. "They can be honored in a way that doesn't emphasize religion." (1)
Personally, it makes no difference to me if they are on crosses or not. (Not that my opinion matters one whit.) But if the highway patrol officer was a Christian then their memorial should be able to express that belief. If the officer was Jewish, it should be a Star of David or a Muslim should be able to have a cresent moon and star. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Here is the ironic part of the whole issue. More than likely, the Utah State Highway Patrol Officers who were killed in the line of duty were Mormon, as 86.8% of Utah residents are Mormon. (2) (as of 2001) They could be another religion, but it would probably be a Christian religion as only a tiny percentage (less than 2%) of the population is Jewish, Muslim or of Eastern religion. Regardless, the irony is that Mormons do not use the cross as a symbol of their religion. There is no overt symbol of the religion. (I know this because I was raised in the Mormon religion, though I am no longer a member, but that is another story.) The Mormons of Utah certainly don't seem to have a problem with the crosses as memorials.

So if the American Atheist, Inc., or ACLU for that matter, have a problem with the memorials being on state land, well, the state should just sell the land the memorial is on to the family of the fallen officer. I think they should charge...oh, a penny! Draw up the deed and file it with the state. Then the AA and the ACLU cannot complain as the cross would no longer be on state land. The whole thing is just ridiculous.

Welcome to all the readers from Mudville Gazette and Argghhh! The Home of Two of Jonah's Military Guys Thanks for the trackback, John! Thanks to Big Dog at Big Dog's Blog for the trackback, too!

Trackbacked to: Jay at Stop the ACLU

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