ADL To Supreme Court: Display Of Cross On Public Land Violates Church-State Separation

Reference: Anti-Defamation League

Update: The Supreme Court’s decision in Salazar v. Buono was issued on April 28, 2010.  More

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New York, NY, August 4, 2009 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called on the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a “sham transaction” and prohibit a prominent religious display on public land.  In an amicus brief submitted to the Court in Salazar v. Buono, ADL and a coalition of civil rights groups also emphasized the importance of allowing Americans access to courts to challenge violations of the First Amendment.

Marvin D. Nathan, ADL Civil Rights Committee Chair, issued the following statement: 

The prominent display of a cross at Sunrise Rock in California’s Mojave National Preserve is an obvious and egregious violation of the separation of church and state.  The Supreme Court should reject the notion that the government can evade the First Amendment here by simply transferring the title for the small parcel of land on which this cross sits within a 1.6-million acre public preserve to a private party.  Furthermore, the Court should use this case to clarify that individual Americans have the right to challenge such displays.

This should not be a difficult case.   The cross clearly constitutes an impermissible endorsement of religion, and – as our brief observes – there are “no fences, signs, disclaimers or other visual cues” that would lead an observer to conclude otherwise.  Sunrise Rock may be a beautiful setting, but in a religiously diverse country which rejects the notion of a state religion, the cross perched atop it is misplaced.          

The brief (.pdf) was primarily authored by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State on behalf of a coalition of organizations, including ADL, which are dedicated to protecting religious freedom.