For Immediate Release
Supreme Court Should Strike Down Display of Cross on Federal Land in California, Says Americans United
Watchdog Group Says Land Transfer Scheme Does Not Save Religious Symbol
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court should use a new controversy over a cross on
park land in California to make it clear that government has no right
to display religious symbols, says Americans United for Separation of
Church and State.
The court today announced it will hear Salazar v. Buono, a
legal battle centering on the display of a cross at the Mojave National
Preserve in California. The cross was originally erected by the
Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1934 and has since been replaced several
times by private citizens.
"This cross is in the middle of a national park, and anyone looking
at it would assume it was erected by the government," said the Rev.
Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "The federal
parks belong to all Americans and are not the appropriate place for the
display of religious symbols."
In 2003, Congress approved a rider to a Defense Department bill
declaring the cross a "national memorial" and mandating a land exchange
that would transfer the cross and the property beneath it to private
hands. Lynn called this an obvious ploy designed to keep the cross on
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He noted that a request by another citizen to display a Buddhist
symbol in the area was denied. This, Lynn said, is proof of
unconstitutional government favoritism toward one religion.
Lynn also disputed claims that the cross is a war memorial.
"Men and women of many faiths and none have served our country
honorably and died to preserve our rights," Lynn said. "A Christian
symbol cannot memorialize them all."
The Supreme Court will also use the case to examine issues of
"standing" the right to sue. Lynn said he hopes the court makes it
clear that individuals who oppose government display of religious
symbols have the right to challenge them in court.
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Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.