Kansas on Monday joined Utah and 18 other states asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court ruling that would ban memorial roadside crosses erected to honor traffic victims.
The filing of the multi-state legal brief follows a Utah trial in which American Atheists, a New Jersey civil rights organization, sued a private organization called the Utah Highway Patrol Association seeking an end to an association tradition of placing memorial crosses on public rights of way to honor fallen highway patrol officers.
The atheists' group contended the memorial crosses amounted to an unconstitutional government endorsement of a religion and the U.S.10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor. Kansas is in the U.S. 10th Circuit, so the ruling would apply here too.
Utah is appealing that verdict. The 19 attorneys general joining a brief to support that appeal note that other circuit courts around the U.S. have applied a variety of different standards regarding when public displays of religious symbols are proper. The brief filed by the 19 attorneys general asks the high court to hear the case so that those discrepancies can be clarified.
Kansas has few formal restrictions on placing memorial crosses along roadsides. Each of the state's six transportation department districts, however, have their own rules about placing the memorials where they are least likely to pose a danger to motorists who run into ditches or to interfere with mowing or other maintenance activity.