While the furor over the proposed mosque at Ground Zero has New York Gov. David Paterson offering public land as a peace offering, a more familiar symbol - the cross - is systematically being uprooted around the country.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled Aug. 18 that placing crosses where Utah state troopers died violates the Establishment Clause.
The 14 crosses, 12 feet tall and bearing a trooper's name, have been erected by the privately funded Utah Highway Patrol Association since 1968. Robert Kirby, a Salt Lake Tribune columnist and former cop, initiated it. He told Newsweek, "We wanted something instantly recognizable at 75 miles per hour, something that would say, 'This is hallowed ground.' "
Not to a mirror-worshipping group, which sued in 2005. It lost in U.S. district court, which ruled in American Atheists Inc. v. Duncan that the cross is a symbol of "death and burial." The atheists appealed and persuaded the 10th Circuit to reverse. But a further appeal to the Supreme Court would bode well, given that swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy, in Salazar v. Buono (2009) wrote:
"The goal of avoiding governmental endorsement does not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm. A cross by the side of a public highway marking, for instance, the place where a state trooper perished need not be taken as a statement of governmental support for sectarian beliefs."
Did the 10th's judges not read this majority opinion? Anyway, let's move on to the Buono case. In California's Mojave National Preserve, the site of a 7-foot, metal-pipe cross first erected 75 years ago by World War I veterans is bare.