State agencies ask Utah Highway Patrol Association to remove crosses

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 14 2011 2:16 p.m. MST

UHP troopers lift a memorial cross into place near the Utah Highway Patrol building in Murray for fallen Trooper Joseph S. "Joey" Brumett who was killed in 1992. Three state agencies have sent letters to the Utah Highway Patrol Association requesting that all memorial crosses on public land be removed.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News archives

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SALT LAKE CITY — Three state agencies have sent letters to the Utah Highway Patrol Association requesting that all memorial crosses on public land be removed.

The action by the Utah Highway Patrol and the state departments of transportation and administrative services follow an Oct. 31 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to not hear Utah's appeal of a lower court decision banning the roadside memorials.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and the Utah Highway Patrol Association had requested a discretionary review of a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that held that crosses on state property violate the separation of church and state.

"Pursuant to prior agreements, you are hereby requested to remove the memorials from the land controlled by this agency at your earliest convenience," stated identical letters to UHPA president Chad McWilliams from UDOT executive director John Njord and David G. Buxton, director of the state Division of Facilities Construction and Management.

The third letter, from UHP Superintendent Daniel Fuhr, asks that UHP logos be removed from the memorials.

The UHPA made that change in November, removing the UHP logos from the 14 crosses and adding notes stating that they are private memorials and not an endorsement of any religion. Of the 14 crosses, 10 are on state land.

McWilliams said he has not seen the letters, which were dated Dec. 6 and Dec. 12.

There is no urgency to remove the crosses, he said.

"We're going to move them to private property. We just don't have the when and where yet," he said. "Will they give me time to find appropriate locations? I don't know. I imagine they would."

McWilliams said the UHPA intends to provide the court timelines and locations Friday. "We're working on a good compromise," he said.

The letters from Buxton and Njord also ask that McWilliams contact state officials to receive "the appropriate permission to go on state property to remove the memorial."

The Utah Highway Patrol Association has erected the 12-foot-tall, white crosses to memorialize troopers killed in the line of duty.

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com, romboy@desnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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