Court grants Utah highway patrolmen’s organization right to intervene against atheists in lawsuit
SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge Thursday granted a Utah highway patrolmen’s organization represented by attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund the right to intervene in a lawsuit filed by an atheist group against Utah officials. The atheist group is seeking to have roadside memorials fully funded and maintained by the Utah Highway Patrol Association removed from public land and bar the use of the Utah Highway Patrol logo on memorials placed on private land.
“Most Americans would be appalled that this group is trying to stop the families of state troopers killed in the line of duty from honoring their lost loved ones in the way they see fit,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Byron Babione. “We intend to defend the constitutionality of the UHPA’s memorials to these honored public servants. The memorials signify the service and death of an officer, and such memorials should not be censored based on the hurt feelings of passersby.”
American Atheists, Inc., sued the Utah Highway Patrol and the Utah Transportation Department seeking a court order to force the removal of the memorials. The group is also contesting the inclusion of the UHP’s beehive logo, placed in the center of each memorial cross, claiming that it is state establishment of religion. Throughout the state, each cross is placed on or near the place where events occurred resulting in the death of an officer.
Babione said that ADF is pleased to represent the UHPA and the interest of family members of fallen officers who wish to keep the memorials in place: “It’s ludicrous to attack these memorials with the tiresome, extraconstitutional construct of ‘separation of church and state.’ We look forward to defending the interests of the UHPA in court.”
ADF attorneys and ADF-allied attorney Frank Mylar filed the motion to intervene Dec. 23 of last year on behalf of the victims’ family members and others who are a part of the Utah Highway Patrol Association.
The Utah Highway Patrol Association is also represented by the National Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm dedicated to the protection of First Amendment freedoms.
ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.