The 10th Circut Court of Appeals has ruled that crosses on the sides of Utah Highways must be taken down. These crosses are paid for and maintained by private individuals to honor fallen Utah Highway Patrol officers, though they are on public land and do have the UHP’s beehive logo on them.
Let’s establish right away that I don’t agree with the ruling. I see it as another example of where the elected legislature approved something, and the appointed judges overruled the people’s will.
From my perspective as a Utahn, the argument of the crosses takes on a greater meaning when you consider that the majority of Utah residents are Mormon, and do not use the cross as a symbol of their worship (Mormons do believe in Jesus, but tend to put more focus on the living Christ and joy of His resurrection rather than the symbol of His death). So the cross is not a common sight to see throughout Utah, yet it is easily recognized as a symbol of death. The court addressed this very thing in their ruling:
“We agree that a reasonable observer would recognize these memorial crosses as symbols of death. However, we do not agree that this nullifies their religious sectarian content because a memorial cross is not a generic symbol of death; it is a Christian symbol of death that signifies or memorializes the death of a Christian….” (Page 29 of the Ruling)
Right there in the ruling, the judges agree that most people won’t worry about the religious significance, and yet they have to give it full weight and consideration anyway just because it is.
The plaintiffs allege to have had “direct personal and unwelcome contact with the crosses.” One of the plaintiffs stated that he has “occasionally altered [his] travel route or [has] not stopped at a particular rest stop to avoid contact with the crosses” (see page 10 of the Ruling). Well, guess what guys… I drive down the highway and I come in contact with billboards that depict messages that I disagree with and would prefer not to see, but buck up and I deal with it. If Jesus has no meaning to you, then the cross is just a couple pieces of wood. Deal with it, ignore it, move on. Shake your head in disbelief at those foolish religious people who hung it there, or find a way to overcome your own discomfort and instead focus a kind thought for the trooper and his or her family, or even admire the memorial for the courage of convictions that those who erected it shown. But if it bothers you so much that you feel like you have “direct personal and unwelcome contact” with a large piece of dead wood, then you have bigger psychological issues that you need to learn to deal with. The cross does have a big sign or blaring loudspeaker saying “Become a Christian too” or “Join Our Church!”
If I were not a Christian, I’d like to show you what some “direct personal and unwelcome contact” really is – like people who routinely stand outside my places of worship loudly and disrespectfully protesting my beliefs; or like my ancestors who were literally run out of town by angry mobs who didn’t like their religious and/or political presence. But Christ’s teaching is to treat others with the same respect as I’d like to be shown back to me; to turn the other cheek; and to be respectful of my brother. Oh, and not be prideful about any of those actions.
Don’t let me give the impression that a follow of Christ has to be weak-kneed. We should be a light on the hill, standing up and shouting on the rooftops, spreading the Word. And as citizens of the nation, we should be doing our part to elect those who are honest and responsible to make the laws and appoint the judges.
In this case, the local elected Utah legislature approved it and the appointed federal judiciary said no. For one, that frustrates me.
The community loses something, as piece by piece, we declare good evil and evil good. Then becomes much tougher and the burden much greater to teach children what is right, while the competing voices of evil grow louder and unchallenged.
The ruling can be read here, if interested: http://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/opinions/08/08-4061.pdf