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August 19th, 2010
12:05 PM ET

Federal appeals court says highways' crosses are unconstitutional

Memorial crosses erected along Utah public roads to honor fallen state highway troopers have been found unconstitutional by a federal appeals court.

A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the 14 large crosses would be viewed by most passing motorists as "government's endorsement of Christianity."

Read the full story

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church and state • Courts • Politics

soundoff (119 Responses)
  1. Reality

    One more time folks: This time read the following very carefully-

    Obviously, the Supreme Court of the USA sees it differently and will overrule the court of appeals:

    April 29, 2010-"An 8-foot cross honoring fallen soldiers in the remote Mojave National Preserve in California can stay where it is, because the Supreme Court said Wednesday that the Consti-tution nowhere requires the "eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm."

    Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing the lead opinion in a 5-4 decision in which several justices wrote separate concurrences and dissents, compared the Mojave Cross to a hypothetical highway memorial marking the death of a state trooper to make the point that such displays "need not be taken as a statement of governmental support for sectarian beliefs."

    "The Const-itution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion's role in society," Justice Kennedy said in his opinion. "Rather, it leaves room to accommodate divergent values within a const-itutionally permissible framework."

    August 21, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Reality

      Sometimes, too much knowledge can be a buzz kill...

      August 21, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
  2. Analog Kid

    Hand-made "Memorials" do not belong on public land. Anyone erecting one should be fined for littering. This is what we have cemeteries for.

    August 20, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
    • David Johnson

      I agree. Our highways are littered by homemade memorials. People also paint scripture on otherwise beautiful rocks.

      August 20, 2010 at 8:16 pm |
  3. BobQuasit

    It's a sad commentary on the intelligence of the American public that so many commenters here are unable to understand that the issue is STATE SUPPORT of religion. No one is trying to ban crosses from public view. What we do object to is OUR TAX DOLLARS being used to support YOUR religion. Get it?

    I don't normally shout this much, but jeeze, people! Don't you ever use the brains that you believe your god gave to you? You'd figure it out soon enough if the state started erecting eleven-foot-high crescents on public land!

    August 20, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
    • David Johnson

      You asked, "Don't you ever use the brains that you believe your god gave to you?"

      No, the fundies do not. To question, is to sin. Their faith demands they believe and believe and believe.

      They close their eyes tight, cover their ears and chant, "Is Not, Is Not".

      August 20, 2010 at 8:13 pm |
  4. David Johnson

    @Mike

    You said, "Now you and Dave upset me for one of two reasons. 1) You lie to push a warped agenda or 2) as learned as you are you cannot do basic math.

    I never lie. I could be mistaken, I never lie. If something is wrong I will acknowledged the fact and correct myself.

    I have used Six Sigma tools in my quality control work for he last15 years. Proportion comparison is the way to look at these stats. Cheers!

    August 20, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
    • Luke

      unless you are lying about never lying. Hmmm..... :)

      August 20, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
  5. Mike

    @Luke as learned as you are you are not arguing with me, who you claim to be less learned but Noah Webster who defines morality as

    Morality – conformity to ideals of right human conduct

    @Dave as I said above it is hard to argue with you being blinded by your hatred but for others edification.

    "If morality came from God, then each and every Christian (or Muslim or whatever) would be perfectly moral and each and every non-believer would be a total sinner. "

    No we are all total sinners none of us can keep the law that is why we need a Savior in Jesus the Christ to take on our sin and we take on His rightousness.

    "Are all the atheists robbing and raping? Nope. Actually atheists are better citizens. Less than 1% of the prison population are atheists"

    Wow, that is so wrong and bias on so many levels. You judge better citizens by prision sentences. OJ did not go to prision for his orignal crime.

    "Normally they are better educated and actually more intelligent. "
    Einstein,Newton,Galileo ,Copernicus,Faraday the list goes on.

    August 20, 2010 at 11:20 am |
    • Luke

      Mike – What does your definition of morality have to do with god? And furthermore, since the definition states that it comes from the conformity of human's take on society, and humans are highly evolved species, then my stance remains while yours crumbles.

      By the way – you are wrong about prison rates. Atheists, according to very recent polling, compose roughly 1% of the prison population. What does that leave you with? Polls were conducted in 1997, 2001, 2004 and 2007. Since you can't post links here, go check for yourself with that awesome google machine.

      August 20, 2010 at 11:42 am |
    • Mike

      Luke focus your learned powers. The discussion has not been about where does morality comes from but is it found in the animal kingdom. So if Morality is defined as human conduct, what you then claim is either 1) a human taught their cat morality or 2) animals learned morality by watching humans. Both ridiculous.
      Now you and Dave upset me for one of two reasons. 1) You lie to push a warped agenda or 2) as learned as you are you cannot do basic math.
      Allow me to explain. You and half the internet claim atheist make up about 1% of the prison population, but what you don’t uncover is that atheist make up about .04% of the United States population.
      “The 2001 ARIS report found that while 29.5 million U.S. Americans (14.1%) describe themselves as "without religion", only 902,000 (0.4%) positively claim to be atheist”... that was the latest stat I could find
      “As of April 24, 2010, of the 211,108 inmates within the BOP system”
      So taking 211k divided by 902k gives you about 23 percent atheist are in prison
      If you want to take all non-religious, even though I would classify myself as non-religious, that is 211,109 divided by (29.5 mill times 14.1 percent ) = about 5 percent.

      August 20, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
    • Luke

      Mike – And of the other 99% of the prison population? They just need a good injection of god, right? Perhaps a bashing over the head with a bible to set them right? Foolish. And by your rationale, the entire subcontinent of Asia would have much higher prison rates because they have no god and subscribe to philosophies without a deity. Religion, Mike, is only a matter of geography.

      Regarding animals, you just don't get it and likely deny evolution anyway. In the event you wish to learn; morality existed before modern humans arrived on the scene. As we evolved and built functioning societies, we learned more about morals and expanded them. We no longer allowed the weakest link to be killed by hunters for the benefit of the pride. We protected them. And so on and so forth.

      August 20, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
    • Luke

      And Einstein certainly did not subscribe to Christianity of any sort. This is a total misnomer. See below:

      A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.

      I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

      I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.

      And furthermore, even if this were true, you listed only 5 smart dudes. Your side is heavily weighted down by the uneducated, the indoctrinated, Texas, South Carolina, all of the Middle East, etc. The list goes on and on.

      August 20, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
    • Mike

      Way to aviod doing math.

      Getting bak to morality you said "As we evolved and built functioning societies, we learned more about morals and expanded them"
      Did the rest of the animal kingdom learn and "expanded" their morality also?

      August 20, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
    • Luke

      Sure, but the process takes millions of years though. What we see with Gorillas, for example, came from their ancestors, before Gorillas were around. What we see in mountain lions came from their ancestors. Elephants show tons of morality surrounding the death of their fellow elephants. It almost looks like a funeral march. They also, much like humans, have a sense of when they are going to die, and leave the pack so their buddies are not slowed down while migrating. Clearly, no human influences there. All in, we cannot therefore conclude that morality comes from biblical teachings, it is ingrained one way or another in our genes. As we evolved more, developed speech and language, cities, and laws, morality expanded into other areas. Math to hard 4 me. Me ungood at math. You wizer than me. You do the math 4 me pleaze. If 1% of the prison population is atheist, the other 99% must be religious to some extent. I don't know what you're missing here. Anyway – I do enjoy a good debate, but with all due respect, I have to run.

      August 20, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Mike

      Christians (all Protestant sects, Catholics, Mormons, JWs et al) represent between 78% and 83% of the US population. The atheist population is estimated between 8% and 16%.

      According t the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Christians represent 83.8% of all convicts in prison, while atheists make up only 0.21% of the prison population.

      Christians make up a disproportionately larger number of convicts to the total Christian population of the US (84% convicts to 80%+ of US population) while atheist convicts make up a disproportionately smaller number to the US atheist population (.02% convicts to 8% – 16% US atheist population. – Source – http//www.holysmoke.org/icr-pri.htm

      It is a dramatic difference in the frequency of criminality between believers and non-believers.

      Using proportions in this manner is the correct way to make a comparison.

      August 20, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Mike

      Followup on Atheists being more intelligent:

      In 2008, intelligence researcher Helmuth Nyborg examined whether IQ relates to denomination and income, using representative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, which includes intelligence tests on a representative selection of American youth, where they have also replied to questions about religious belief. His results, published in the scientific journal Intelligence demonstrated that on average, Atheists scored 1.95 IQ points higher than Agnostics, 3.82 points higher than Liberal persuasions, and 5.89 IQ points higher than Dogmatic persuasions. [4] "I'm not saying that believing in God makes you dumber. My hypothesis is that people with a low intelligence are more easily drawn toward religions, which give answers that are certain, while people with a high intelligence are more skeptical," says the professor.[5]

      a number of different Western societies, studies consistently find that high IQ correlates with low belief, as does high Psychometric g (the general factor in intelligence).
      •Elites (who are presumed to be more intelligent) are less likely to believe – and this is especially true of scientists.
      •As children grow up, they are less likely to agree with statements like “I believe there is a God” and “God means a lot to me”.
      •During the 20th century, religious belief has declined in western nations, coupled with an increase in IQ (the 'Flynn effect')
      •Nations with higher average IQ have higher numbers of atheists

      Yep, that says it for me. LOL

      These are all available on as GW would say, the google.

      August 20, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Mike

      I posted:
      "If morality came from God, then each and every Christian (or Muslim or whatever) would be perfectly moral and each and every non-believer would be a total sinner."

      You Responded:
      "No we are all total sinners none of us can keep the law that is why we need a Savior in Jesus the Christ to take on our sin and we take on His rightousness."

      Even if I accept your response, I would still expect the religious (Christians?) to fair better, in the moral sense, than the non-bliever. Surely, believers would not sin and sin and sin, with the expectation that they could obtain absolution. You would think they would sin less, just because they would be inclined to fight the good fight, because they love the baby Jesus.

      Many atheists and agnostics are moral, no love of god required.

      The data seems to uphold my theory. See the stats on prison population I break down for you.

      You indicated in your post that the prison stats would not be sufficient, since some criminals are not caught. That is a really dumb argument. Are only atheists not caught?

      Fundies have a lot of trouble accepting truth. There is never enough data, or it is bad data (skewed). I understand Mike. You are losing a god. My condolences. Cheers buddy!

      August 20, 2010 at 8:51 pm |
  6. Mike

    @Luke thank you for the post about Morality and the animal kingdom, this has removed any doubt that I had that you knew what you were talking about.

    Morality – conformity to ideals of right human conduct

    What you described is animal herd instincts which even humans have
    Morality is making the chose to follow one instinct over another. To flee for safty or to defend those in trouble. So the thing that helps us decide our instincts can not itself be an instinct.

    August 20, 2010 at 9:29 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Mike
      @Zachary Ruoff

      Gee Mike, you sure want to Luke to proclaim: "All morality comes from God! Atheists are morally bankrupt without god!" I think any answer he gave, other than this, would not have made you happy.

      If morality came from God, then each and every Christian (or Muslim or whatever) would be perfectly moral and each and every non-believer would be a total sinner.

      Look out your front door. Are all the atheists robbing and raping? Nope. Actually atheists are better citizens. Less than 1% of the prison population are atheists. Normally they are better educated and actually more intelligent.

      If ethics originated from God, and only those that claim allegiance to this God are truly moral, how can one know that this is true? There are so many religions in the world, how do we know which one has the right morals?

      Morals come from the evolved intellect. We reason. We look at an action and decide if this action has a positive or negative effect on society. That should be the only test. No god required.

      August 20, 2010 at 10:12 am |
    • Luke

      Mike – While I feel like I should be ignoring you, I'm not going to do it. You see – I studied science. I continue to study science. You clearly have not. Zoologists and biologists know the morality exists in the animal kingdom. Anyone who has watched a nature show on Animal Planet knows this. Anyone who took the time to read a book on Chimps for fun knows this. You, sir, have not. I am studied and learned and most of all; I continue to study and learn. You are ignorant and biased. Suffice to say, humans have over developed frontal lobes and are victims of our societal norms. Therefore, we are more (or less) moral than a less developed organism on the evolutionary scale. However, this does not discount the origins of morality and ethics in our evolutionary ancestors. And to the point, if it is the Abrahamic god you are wanting me to believe because you think morals are derived there, I am sad to say that Jainism and Buddhism spoke of morals very similar to those in the bible many hundreds of years before the rise of Christianity, therefore your god does not own the patent on the Golden Rule. Even Paganism spoke of morals – remember the Pagans? Yeah, you guys kill them all and took their holidays. And thanks for your wisdom, I'll be sure to pass along your opinion in my publication.

      August 20, 2010 at 10:34 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Mike

      If there is only one true god, then there should be a single set of morals. Yet, different cultures have different morals. There have been cultures that have believed cannibalism is moral and most acceptable to their god.

      Examine the "morality" of your desert war god. Hardly the poster child for desired behavior. I wouldn't leave my kids with him. Cheers!

      August 20, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  7. peace2all

    Separation of Church/state.... The cross is a 'christian' religious symbol. You can have all the crosses you want on your private property, but not on public property.

    For the people that are posting on this and keep suggesting that it is o.k... or more scary...'should' be o.k to put crosses on public land anywhere....... do you not understand...? Or, like some of you post... "hey...let's get more god here!"

    Well, keep your religions and beliefs to yourself...... Yep, I can just see the muslim 'star and crescent moon' going up all over the place and the 'christians' screaming.....! Don't you get it....! Please.... think about it.

    We can honor the fallen with other symbols, as suggested like a trooper shield. Their demise had nothing to do with their religion or lack thereof...

    That's the law.. as it should be... deal with it....

    Peace...

    August 20, 2010 at 4:01 am |
  8. One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

    "The judges also disregarded suggestions that since most of the deceased troopers were Mormon, where the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints does not uses the cross as a religious symbol, the highway memorials were merely symbols of death and did not promote a a particular faith."

    So–the defense was arguing that crosses aren't really religious because we are using them to represent people who wouldn't have used them at all? Isn't that kind of like baptizing dead people? ironic....

    August 19, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
  9. Keith

    Those minarets sure are an annoyance. The road commission bush hog can take of 'em.

    August 19, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
  10. Keith

    Those minarets sure are an annoyance.

    August 19, 2010 at 9:16 pm |
  11. Lorraine Linky

    Memorial crosses erected along Utah public roads to honor our fallen state highway troopers ruled unconstitutional? What's next? The removal of all crosses in Arlington National Cemetary, come on now..................as long as Christianity is the majority of all religions in these great United States, the majority shall rule.

    August 19, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
  12. Terri

    to Luke: obviously a group of atheists (from Texas, I think) were offended or they would not have wasted their time in the courts. I think there are much, much more important things to worry about than the 12 square feet of state land that these crosses occupy (approx. 1 foot for each post). I support the Bill of Rights as well but I am also rational and realistic enough to stand back and see that our country is on the decline for many reasons. Lack of belief being one–only my opinion. What am I going to do about it? Continue to pray for politicians to stand up for what is right and for nonbelievers like yourself. I know I'm going to heaven and you're going to hell. Enjoy your choice.

    August 19, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
    • Luke

      How very Christian of you to damn me to eternal fire for not simply agreeing with you. Hopefully not too soon. I'm recently married and expecting my first child. Isn't this why your ancestors started the crusades? By the way – they were not offended. They were standing up in defense of a very clear violation of the bill of rights. You cannot cherry pick; you either support the bill of rights or you do not. I, for one, dislike the 2nd amendment, but it is what it is. You, as a supporter of this country as you claim to be must then support the decision and follow the church/state clause. Otherwise, you should defect to a known theocracy such as Iran. It's a shame you can't head to a first world nation- they're all secular too. Peace be with you. Oh, most scientists and intellectuals believe the nation is in decline(it is) due to the high levels of religiosity. Sorry, I disagree with you.

      August 19, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Terri

      When we die, we go nowhere. There is no god. Sorry.

      August 19, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
    • Luke

      Oh, you know who else knew they were going to heaven? Jihadists that blew themselves up on September 11th, 2001. Think about it a while before you rattle off some blather.

      August 19, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
  13. Smizzle "Avalanche" McPherson

    Religion is the disgrace of humanity.

    August 19, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
  14. Darren

    I'm an atheist and I think it's silly to sue to get them removed; as long as the officers family is ok with the use of the cross and they themselves were christian. If the officer was an atheist or any other religion, I would assume they would find it offensive to have their name on a cross and in that case they shouldn't be used.

    August 19, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
    • Keith

      Darren, there's no such thing as an atheist. Saying you can't find God is like a bank robber saying he can't find a cop. What are sooooooo many "atheists" doing on a belief blog?

      August 19, 2010 at 9:24 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Keith

      You said, "Darren, there's no such thing as an atheist. Saying you can't find God is like a bank robber saying he can't find a cop. What are sooooooo many "atheists" doing on a belief blog?"

      Can't speak for everyone, but I'm here because I find fundies to be a source of amusement. Cheers!

      August 19, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
  15. Mitch K

    Get off your high horse David Johnson

    August 19, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Mitch K

      You said, "Get off your high horse David Johnson"

      WoW! I guess you told me. But there still is no god. No baby Jesus. Sorry. Cheers!

      August 19, 2010 at 9:49 pm |
  16. David Johnson

    @Marko

    You said, " Aw you don't have a problem honoring the officers, how sweet. You just want to make sure the symbol choosen to honor that person by his peers meets your approval? Get a life"

    First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

    For display on public land, any symbol, but a religious symbol, will do. If you display it on private land, choose anything you like, whether it exists or not.

    There is no god. Get over it.

    August 19, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
  17. Trevor

    The Constitution prohibits Congress from legislating religion; it does not prohibit state governments from supporting religion. Constitutionally, the federal government has no place micromanaging a state in this manner.

    August 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
  18. Frogist

    These symbols of a private religion are on public grounds. This is counter to the separation of church and state. Personally, I think it is offensive to defend putting up a 12 ft christian symbol when you would not welcome a 12 ft islamic or jewish symbol. But the difference is if you put 1t on your private grounds, I can grit my teeth and bear your cross. When you put 1t on my public highway, I will want 1t removed. You are only honoring christians when you put up a cross. If you want to honor the troopers who died at their post? Put up a state trooper symbol. If you want to make a statement about public safety? Put up an orange cone.

    August 19, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
    • Reality

      One more time and read it very carefully:

      Obviously, the Supreme Court of the USA sees it differently and will overrule the court of appeals:

      April 29, 2010-"An 8-foot cross honoring fallen soldiers in the remote Mojave National Preserve in California can stay where it is, because the Supreme Court said Wednesday that the Consti-tution nowhere requires the "eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm."

      Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing the lead opinion in a 5-4 decision in which several justices wrote separate concurrences and dissents, compared the Mojave Cross to a hypothetical highway memorial marking the death of a state trooper to make the point that such displays "need not be taken as a statement of governmental support for sectarian beliefs."

      "The Const-itution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion's role in society," Justice Kennedy said in his opinion. "Rather, it leaves room to accommodate divergent values within a const-itutionally permissible framework."

      August 19, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  19. kelly

    Yet the government uses crosses for fallen sodiers who were never found. Thousands of them.

    August 19, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
    • Luke

      Where? Arlington National Cemetery has no crosses for headstones. They are rectangular. On the headstone there are crosses, Stars of David, Crecent Moons for Muslims, etc. The family gets to choose, the government does not.

      August 19, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.