TOPEKA – (May 23, 2011) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt today joined attorneys general from 19 other states in a legal brief supporting the right of freedom of expression on public lands.
This filing originates from a case in Utah where the state has allowed the Utah Highway Patrol Association, a private organization, to erect memorials on public rights-of-way to honor fallen highway patrol officers. An organization of atheists filed a lawsuit opposing this practice, claiming the memorial crosses in the highway rights-of-way constitute an endorsement of Christianity.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, the rulings of which are binding in Kansas, ruled in favor of the atheist organization, and the State of Utah has appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court. Today’s brief supports Utah’s petition asking the Supreme Court to hear arguments on the case.
“Honoring officers who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty is an appropriate use of public property,” Schmidt said. “The mere presence of religious symbols along roadsides does not rise to the level of a government endorsement of a particular religion. These symbols stand as a simple memorial to the fallen officers.”
In supporting Utah’s petition for the Supreme Court to hear the case, the brief notes that different standards have been applied to religious symbols on public property by various Circuit Courts throughout the country. The brief asks the Court to hear the case so these discrepancies can be clarified.
The case is Davenport v. American Atheists.