Each of these memorials was conceived, designed, erected, funded, and maintained by the Utah Highway Patrol Association (“UHPA”)—a private, nonreligious, fraternal organization that supports Utah Highway Patrol officers and their families. The UHPA selected and designed the memorials without government input, constructed and placed the memorials without government funding or assistance, retains ownership of the memorials without transferring that interest to the government, and maintains the memorials without government resources. The UHPA erected these memorials for the secular purposes of memorializing troopers who died in the line of duty, reminding the public of those troopers’ service and ultimate sacrifice, and prompting motorists to drive safely.
The UHPA constructed these memorials in the Latin-cross shape not for the purpose of endorsing any religion, but instead, because in this roadside context the cross, unlike any other marker, communicates to motorists passing at highway speeds the simultaneous messages of death, honor, remembrance, and safety. Memorial crosses, in general, are secular symbols widely used to honor and respect the heroic acts and noble contributions of fallen public servants. Roadside crosses, in particular, are secular symbols widely used to memorialize, and generally understood to represent, traffic-related and other roadside deaths. None of the UHPA’s memorials are intended to signify—or even suggest—the religion or religious affiliation of any of the deceased troopers.
The Utah Legislature in 2006 and again in 2011 issued resolutions regarding the UHPA’s memorials. Those resolutions acknowledge that “a white cross has become widely accepted as a symbol of a death, and not a religious symbol, when placed along a highway” and that the memorials’ cross shape “was never intended as a religious symbol, but as a symbol of the sacrifice made by these highway patrol officers.” See H.C.R. 4, 2006 Leg., Gen. Sess. (Utah 2006); H.C.R. 16, 2011 Leg., Gen. Sess. (Utah 2011).
The UHPA wants motorists passing through the vast Utah landscape to see the memorials and immediately discern that they commemorate fallen troopers. For this reason, the memorials are 12-foot tall, and the trooper’s name, trooper designation, rank, and badge number are written across the entire six-foot crossbar in approximately 8-inch-tall, black, capitalized lettering—the same size text used for posting the words “SPEED LIMIT” alongside major interstate highways. Beneath the crossbar, similar large, black lettering indicates the year that the trooper died. Below the year of death, a plaque displays a picture of the deceasedtrooper and recounts his public service and tragic death. Each memorial also contains a sign declaring that it is a “Private Memorial,” that it is “not a state endorsement of any religion,” and that the observer should visit this website for more information.
To ensure that the memorials are near the site where each trooper was mortally injured, in a spot visible to passing motorists, and at a location safe for the public to stop and view, the UHPA has placed four of the memorials on private land and 10 of the memorials on public land.
Surviving family members have approved each memorial. Those family members have never objected to the use of the roadside cross memorial or requested that the UHPA commemorate their loved ones with a different symbol. If, in the future, a surviving family member were to request another appropriate symbol, the UHPA would accommodate that wish. The Utah Legislature also supports the private choice of surviving family members to use other appropriate symbols in these roadside memorials. See H.C.R. 16, 2011 Leg., Gen. Sess. (Utah 2011).
To comply with a legal decision of a federal court of appeals, the UHPA voluntarily altered the memorials by removing the official Utah Highway Patrol logo that formerly appeared on them and adding the sign stating that each of them is a “Private Memorial,” that they are “not a state endorsement of any religion,” and that the observer should visit this website for more information. Following these alterations, the memorials continue to communicate messages of death, honor, remembrance, and safety to the public, while more clearly emphasizing that they do not in any way constitute a government endorsement of religion.