An Illinois atheist has exhausted his final appeal in a two-and-one-half-year legal effort challenging the use of state funds for the renovation of a 50-year-old, 11-story Christian cross gracing the top of Illinois' tallest peak. On January 22 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review Robert Sherman's suit, first filed in 2010, which charged that the state had violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause when it gave a $20,000 grant to Friends of the Cross, a group that was formed to raise funding for the repair of the decaying 111-foot Bald Knob Cross of Peace near Alto Pass, Illinois.
Lower courts had ruled that Sherman lacked standing to sue the state since the funding had not come directly from the state legislature, but was funneled through a $5-million fund designated for individual lawmakers and was issued to the Friends of the Cross through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Sherman continued to push his case, insisting that the grant was a legislative earmark and demonstrated the government's preferential treatment of Christianity.
In a statement Sherman said that the Supreme Court's refusal to consider his appeal “affirms that our nation's court system is a joke.” He said his failed appeal means that “any legislative [body], whether it be Congress, a state legislature, or a municipal board, can make blatantly unconstitutional grants to advance religion simply by naming an executive branch agency as a middleman in the transaction.”
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Photo: Bald Knob Cross of Peace