August 5, 2008
(Washington, D.C., August 5, 2008)
Humanists today informed the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals that “The Latin cross is an inherently religious symbol.” This statement appears in a friend-of-the-court brief, filed today in American Atheists vs. Duncan by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center of the American Humanist Association on behalf of the Association, the Society for Humanistic Judaism, and the Unitarian Universalist Association.
The controversy concerns what humanists consider an obvious fact, as denied by the Utah Highway Patrol defendants, who argue that the Latin cross becomes a secular symbol of death and remembrance when used as part of a memorial on public property for fallen law enforcement officers.
“The reasonable observer in this case would view the twelve-foot-tall Latin crosses on public property as government endorsement of religion,” the humanist brief adds, which seeks reversal of the lower, district court decision.
“For too long the courts have hidden behind sham secular purposes to circumvent the protections afforded by the Establishment Clause. The Christian crosses at issue in this case are too large for the 10th Circuit not to see their inherently religious purpose,” said Bob Ritter, legal coordinator of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
The Appignani Humanist Legal Center participates in litigation in church-state separation cases that directly affect humanists. The group also stands up for the rights of humanists, as in a recent case, successfully completed, involving the firing of a humanist college instructor.
“To use the most obvious, prominent Christian symbol to honor the fallen is divisive,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “By adopting the symbol of one faith, this government excludes all others, including the millions of humanists, Buddhists, Hindus, pagans, and other non-Christian Americans. The cross memorial is unconstitutional and we’ll continue to fight to have it removed.”
Those signing on to the humanist brief, along with the original atheist litigants, seek the replacement of the roadside crosses with religiously-neutral memorial markers.
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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 a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.