For Immediate Release
Sham Religious Land Deal Decried
WASHINGTON - 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
“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.”
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“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.