In this space last Sunday, I wrote about the value of sensitivity when dealing with other viewpoints and opinions, particularly in the area of religion.

Specifically, I suggested that at this time of year I personally see it as a good thing if Christians can take the high road and not take offense when the "Christmas season" publicly becomes the politically correct "holiday season."

Live and let live. As long as no one tries to make Christmas illegal or stop anyone from observing it however they choose, where's the harm?

But such sensitivity ought to cut both ways, and members of American Atheists Inc. have displayed an amazing lack of consideration, not to mention an abject unawareness of human feelings and emotions, by filing a lawsuit against the Utah Highway Patrol and Utah Department of Transportation for using crosses to memorialize UHP troopers who have died in the line of duty.

There are 14 such crosses along Utah roadsides, some on private land, others on public land. No matter where they are and no matter what they represent, the Atheists think that's 14 too many. They contend the crosses violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by not separating church and state.

So what are they going to take on next? The Easter Bunny?


Lawsuit-wise, this reaches the same level of ludicrousness — although technically it's the polar opposite — as the suit filed by the Hindu man a couple of years ago against a taco stand for serving him a beef taco when he ordered a bean taco.

For damages, the man, who ate the taco before he realized the error, asked for a trip to the Ganges River in India to cleanse himself and get right before God.

The American Atheists want a dollar in monetary damages and no crosses on the landscape to get themselves right before no God.

The taco lawsuit got nowhere on the grounds that it was ridiculous and neither should the UHP lawsuit, on the same grounds.

While there may be a constitutional argument from a strict letter-of-the-law view, there is no reasonable argument when the spirit (sorry, Atheists) of the law is put into the equation.

That's the spirit that says if we're going to live side by side, we need to get along and use a little common sense.

As Sterling Provost, a peace-officer advocate who in 1985 helped establish the Utah Highway Patrol Honorary Colonels Association, said, "The Highway Patrol Association should have the right to use whatever symbol they believe has meaning to them. I'm sure they wouldn't require anyone to have a cross that doesn't want one."

Crosses, Provost points out, "are an accepted standard in recognizing the dead. They're all over Arlington and other military cemeteries and that's public land. Are we going to remove all of those?"

He shakes his head at what he calls "a loss of perspective."

"We need to understand that there are times to be careful to separate the two (church and state), but we also need to understand that to go to the extreme is ludicrous."

Denigrating memorials that pay tribute to officers who "put their lives in jeopardy every day and paid the ultimate price" and that give meaningful comfort to their loved ones is going to the extreme.

Only extremists would disagree with that.


Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.