Legislative Coverage

House Committee Backs Highway Crosses

State lawmakers are supporting the use of roadside crosses as a memorial for fallen Highway Patrol officers. A group called American Atheists filed a lawsuit in 2005 against the Utah Highway Patrol Association, a private organization, claiming the crosses are an unconstitutional state endorsement of Christianity. But Republican Representative Lee Perry, a highway patrol officer himself, says the crosses aren’t viewed as religious symbols.

(KCPW News) State lawmakers are supporting the use of roadside crosses as a memorial for fallen Highway Patrol officers. A group called American Atheists filed a lawsuit in 2005 against the Utah Highway Patrol Association, a private organization, claiming the crosses are an unconstitutional state endorsement of Christianity. But Republican Representative Lee Perry, a highway patrol officer himself, says the crosses aren’t viewed as religious symbols.

“You look at that, you don’t think, where can I go to church?” says Perry. “You look at it, you say, it’s obvious, that’s a highway patrolman who’s lost his life here. That’s why they have a beehive in the center. That’s why they have the trooper’s name across them. They do have a plaque that even tells what happened to each trooper on each one of them.

A federal court in Salt Lake City sided with the Highway Patrol Association that the crosses are a secular symbol. But the decision was appealed and overturned.

Perry says he’s open to using other symbols, but there hasn’t been a viable option yet.

“If somebody can come back and tell me what symbol I can put up that sends an instantaneous message that an officer lost their life there, I’m willing to listen,” says Perry. “And I’m willing to put in the language in the resolution in case the time ever comes that somebody says, well, I don’t want this particular symbol; this is what I want.”

There are 14 crosses altogether in the state. A resolution supporting the crosses was approved by a House committee this morning with bipartisan support.

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