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Mojave Cross Doesn't Represent All Americans, Humanists Say

Washington, D.C., April 28, 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that a cross in the Mojave Desert National Preserve can stay in the federal park sets a bad precedent for similar church-state separation cases, the American Humanist Association argued today. The 5-4 ruling in Salazar v. Buono issued today held that the District Court failed to properly consider Congress's transfer of the public land upon which the cross sits and that the cross may remain at least until the District Court makes a proper determination otherwise.

"Predictably, five conservative justices on the Supreme Court today saw no evil in letting a Christian cross represent all Americans, notwithstanding the fact that the cross is the preeminent symbol of but one religion--Christianity," said Bob Ritter, the legal coordinator of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, legal arm of the AHA. "If this is not ‘an establishment of religion' I don't know what is."

In July, 2009, Ritter submitted a friend of the court brief on behalf of the American Humanist Association and five other nonprofits, calling upon the court to affirm the decision of the 9th Circuit ordering the removal of the cross from public land.

After a district court ordered the removal of the cross on federal property in the California desert, Congress authorized the exchange of land the cross sits on to the Veterans of Foreign Wars for other land privately held in the Preserve. They also designated the cross as a national war memorial. This transaction was disputed by the 9th Circuit Court, which observed the result to be "a little donut hole of land with a cross in the midst of a vast federal preserve."

"It's clear the government was willing to do anything it took in order to keep the cross in the middle of federal land," said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. "And now we'll almost certainly see such shady tactics put to use again."

The American Humanist Association ( www.americanhumanist.org ) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.

Humanism is the idea that you can be good without a belief in a god.