(Washington, DC, February 23, 2009) The U.S. Supreme Court should rule against the use of sham land deals to keep religious symbols on federal property, the American Humanist Association said today. This was in reference to this morning’s decision by the Court to hear the case Salazar v. Buono, in which a former National Park Service employee and the American Civil Liberties Union sued to remove the eight-foot Sunrise Rock cross erected in the Mojave National Preserve in California. The memorial was originally built in 1934 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, but the cross and the property beneath it were transferred to private hands with Congressional approval in 2004. On two occasions since 2004, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the cross must be removed, invalidating the land transfer.
“The American Humanist Association agrees with the 9th Circuit’s decision and will work to convince the Supreme Court of that conclusion,” said Bob Ritter, legal coordinator for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center of the American Humanist Association. “The devious practice of trying to keep a religious symbol on public property by selling the piece of land on which it sits to a private owner—-doing so in an private inside deal—-has got to stop. This should be recognized as a conspiracy to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is a sham land deal motivated by a sectarian desire to maintain a sacred Christian symbol on the people’s property. If this isn’t stopped, it can be repeated on every parcel of public land—-federal, state, and local—-across America.”
“The American Humanist Association has a long tradition of standing against government endorsement of religion,” added Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “That’s why we’ve been active in the San Diego case of the cross on Mount Soledad, and we’ll be similarly involved with the Mojave Desert case.”
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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.