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Lawsuit Over UHP Memorial Crosses Brings Emotional Response

Lawsuit Over UHP Memorial Crosses Brings Emotional Response



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Nishi Gupta Reporting"You're attacking people's memories and you're harming peoples lives by bringing up this lawsuit. It's very offensive, it's frivolous."

A lawsuit demanding crosses be removed from memorials to fallen Utah Highway Patrol troopers gets an emotional response. Hundreds of people protested the lawsuit at the UHP office in Murray today, saying the crosses honoring the UHP troopers and should not be removed.

The lawsuit, filed by Atheist groups, says the 14 roadside memorials violate the separation of church and state. Atheists say the Utah Highway Patrol logo on a Christian symbol that's also on government property is a state endorsement of Christianity. But those attending the rally say they were offended and disappointed; they feel this lawsuit has gone too far.

Hundreds of people showed up to fight back.

"I don't want the crosses to be down because it reminds me so much of him. I love my grandpa."

They say it’s a smear on the memory of their loved ones.

Eyewitness News sat down with Stephen Clark, a plaintiff in the suit and local Atheist leader . He says he wants the troopers remembered too.

Stephen Clark, Salt Lake Valley Atheists: "If these religious symbols were on private property that would totally satisfy us, of if a secular symbol was placed on government property, that would satisfy us."

He suggests a flag made of cloth or steel be erected in the place of a cross. The opposition to the crosses was fought back with more crosses. Organizers made 300 PVC crosses with about 200 signs. In about an hour's time, they had already sold more than half.

It’s one political statement in response to another. Many people say the crosses are a small tribute for paying the ultimate sacrifice and to remove them is a shocking and blatant request.

Devan Thorne, Son of Fallen Trooper: "It's like moving a gravestone, it's like digging up a graveyard, and it's just not right."

JoAnne Winn Sharpe, Wife of Fallen Grooper: "I now have 29 grandchildren and seven great pretty soon; these are kids that will never know their grandfather."

Stephen Clark says he'd rather just drop the lawsuit. He'd like to sit down with the Utah Highway Patrol Association, the group that put up the crosses, to come up with a solution.

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