Families of Fallen Utah Highway Patrol Troopers Fight Atheist Group Over Roadside Cross Memorials
Photo Courtesy of Utah Highway Patrol Association
If a national atheist organization has its way, a series of 12-foot-tall memorial crosses that adorn Utah’s highways will be taken down.
But not if the families of the people those crosses honor — state Highway Patrol troopers killed in the line of duty — have anything to say about it.
American Atheists Inc. has filed a federal lawsuit, arguing that the 13 white, steel crosses represent the death of Jesus Christ and therefore violate the First Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits government establishment of religion.
But the families of the fallen heroes say otherwise. They say the crosses, which bear the names and badge numbers of the troopers, were built strictly as memorials.
“We’re being attacked personally for something we did to help us heal,” said Clint Pierson, whose father, Trooper Ray Lynn Pierson, was shot and killed during a traffic stop in 1978.
“We put the crosses up as a memorial to the fallen officers.”
The Utah Highway Patrol Association defends the crosses, which have the Highway Patrol logo on them and have been erected on government land. It says they are secular symbols that both honor the troopers and remind speeding drivers to slow down.
“I think it’s ridiculous that a small group of offended atheists would seek to stop the family of slain troopers from honoring their loved ones as they see fit,” said Byron Babione, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which represents the Utah Highway Patrol Association.
“These memorial crosses clearly do nothing more than honor fallen troopers and promote highway safety.”Continued.