ACRU Brief Argues for ‘Coercion Test’ in Utah Highway Cross Case
May 23, 2011 – Memorial crosses honoring fallen Utah Highway Patrol Officers are not an unconstitutional establishment of religion because there is no coercion involved, the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) argues in an amicus curiae brief filed today in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The ACRU’s brief in support of the Petitioners in Davenport et al. v. American Atheists, Inc., urges the Court to grant certiorari to review the ruling of the Tenth Circuit finding the cross memorials to be an unconstitutional establishment of the Christian religion.
“This case presents an opportunity for an historic, landmark ruling that will return Establishment Clause law to the language and history of the Constitution and intent of the framers, freeing religious expression from government prohibition and control,” said ACRU General Counsel Peter Ferrara. “It is long past time to establish a principled foundation for Establishment Clause law rooted in the Constitutional text and our nation’s history and cultural heritage.”
The ACRU brief urges the Court to adopt an entirely new standard for deciding Establishment Clause cases that is more true to the text and history of the First Amendment. The new standard, known as the Coercion Test, would evaluate alleged Establishment Clause violations based on whether the challenged policy, practice, or action involves coercion in regard to religion.
“Such coercive practices are what the framers meant to prohibit in adopting the Establishment Clause, for this is what an Establishment of Religion meant at the time,” Ferrara said. “The framers did not mean, however, to prohibit any voluntary, public, religious speech, or religious expression or symbolism, which do not involve any such coercion.”
The brief urged the Court to follow the example of its landmark ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, where it closely analyzed the text and history of the Second Amendment to recognize the individual right to keep and bear arms that the framers intended.
Download the brief here. (PDF)