SALT LAKE CITY — Numerous organizations and public officials filed friend-of-the-court briefs Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit to defend the constitutionality of roadside memorials for fallen Utah troopers. Alliance Defense Fund attorneys and allied attorneys, who filed their opening appellate brief Oct. 15, represent the Utah Highway Patrol Association against American Atheists, which sued the state to remove the roadside crosses that commemorate the officers.
"It's ridiculous that a small group of offended atheists would seek to stop the families of slain troopers from honoring their loved ones as they fit," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Byron Babione. "Stamping out these symbols of sacrifice is the first step to forgetting the people who daily risk their lives to keep America safe. The groups and officials filing briefs in support of the memorials underscore the importance of this case."
One of the friend-of-the-court briefs was filed by Robert Mackey, who organized a 1995 effort to erect 14 crosses to commemorate the death of his son and other firefighters who died while fighting a Colorado fire in 1994. The American Legion; the Utah Sheriffs' Association; Utah legislators together with the city of Santa Fe, N.M.; the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty together with the states of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma; and the Foundation for Moral Law also filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the memorials.
American Atheists filed suit against the Utah Highway Patrol and Utah Transportation Department in 2005. In 2006, the court allowed the Utah Highway Patrol Association to intervene in the case to defend the memorials. UHPA is represented by ADF attorneys, ADF-allied attorney Frank Mylar, and the National Legal Foundation.
In 2007, a federal district court judge ruled against American Atheists, finding no state or federal constitutional violation. The judge noted that no public money or property was used to support the memorial cross program. American Atheists appealed the decision to the 10th Circuit.
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.