There are 13 memorials similar to this one dedicated to Utah Highway Patrol Troopers killed in the line of duty. The Atheist Association Inc of New Jersey, sued to have the crosses removed because they claimed the crosses violated the separation of church and state. A federal court ruled for the Atheists. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal on the case, meaning that the crosses likely will need to be removed
Mormons have a strange relationship with the cross. We don’t like to show the cross. It is one of the reasons why many say that Mormons aren’t Christian. When I attended the MHA meetings last year in Independence, I was surprised to see a cross on both the outside and inside of Independence Temple. Most Mormons find displays of the cross to be distasteful. On my mission, I remember being asked why Mormons don’t show the cross. My standard response was that if Christ had been killed by a knife, gun, or electric chair, would we hang one of those weapons around our neck in remembrance. The cross was a very gruesome, tortured way to die.
But the sign of the cross dates back thousands of years. Constantine had a dream in which he saw a cross on the sun, and felt this was a sign that he should merge with Christianity. He outfitted his army with the cross in a major battle, and won the empire. Christianity became the official religion of the empire. The cross is synonymous with traditional Christianity. Mormons rejection of the cross causes other Christians to question our Christianity.
But since the atheists are attacking the cross, Mormons are coming down on the side of the cross. LDS member and state Senator Carl Wimmer of Herriman, Utah plans to introduce a bill to allow the crosses to stay. It should be noted that the Supreme Court seems to have had some conflicting opinions on whether crosses constitute a state-sponsored form of religious preference.
Quoting from the Deseret News article,
Past high court rulings on the issue have “confounded the lower courts and rendered the constitutionality of displays of religious imagery on government property anyone’s guess,” [Justice Clarence Thomas] wrote.
Thomas suggested the case would have been a good vehicle for a major review and revision of Establishment Clause jurisprudence. “It is hard to imagine an area of the law more in need of clarity,” he wrote. The court “should not now abdicate our responsibility to clean up our mess.”
[Utah Attorney General Mark] Shurtleff agrees.
“I’m upset at our Supreme Court for not taking the case,” he said. “They clearly need to resolve a question that differs depending on where you live in the country.”
The appeals court decision, he said, applies to the six states in the 10th circuit — Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah — making crosses illegal in those states, but permissible in every other state.
But Barnard [attorney representing the atheist group] said the case is limited to Utah.
“There are no similar government approved displays or memorial programs for law enforcement officers in other states,” he said. No other states allow similar large crosses with state emblems in front of the state offices.”
I know that the Community of Christ has a cross on their temple, and I know most Mormons don’t like the cross on their temple, feeling they are too cozy with Protestantism. I also wonder if representative Wimmer’s response is more against the atheists, than it is in support of the cross. What’s your take?