Bald Knob Cross
Mon June 4, 2012
Suit against state funding for giant Ill. cross struck down
A challenge against the use of state money to refurbish a giant cross in southern Illinois has been struck down.
Atheist Robert Sherman sued the state after discovering that a $20,000 state grant had been awarded to a group looking to refurbish the Bald Knob Cross for Peace near Alto Pass, Ill. He claimed the grant violated the First Amendment's establishment clause by giving preference to a specific religion.
A lower district court ruled Sherman did not have standing, and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. As the ruling today says:
"The district court correctly assessed Sherman’s right to sue. Whatever may be lurking in the background of this appropriations legislation, the $20,000 grant to Friends was not the result of legislative action; rather, it can be traced at most to the initiative of a single legislator."
In essence, the court states:
- The grant was part of a $5 million appropriation which was passed "to fund the pork-barrel projects of individual legislators;"
- Caucus members then decide how to divvy up the money for those pork-barrel projects;
- And the court says the Bald Knob project falls into the pork-barrel project category.
Sherman's assertion that the money be paid back to taxpayers by the Friends group was also considered "out of the question" by the court.
Bald Knob Cross / Alto Pass, Ill.