Federal judge finds landmark cross restoration grant constitutional

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the Central District of Illinois [official website] on Tuesday ruled that the state did not unconstitutionally advocate religion by financially contributing to the restoration of the Bald Knob Cross of Peace [official website]. The court rejected [AP report] an argument that the $20,000 grant constituted a legislative earmark, thereby violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment [text] by directing state funds to support religion. Judge Michael McCuskey held that the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity [official website] may allocate its funds as it sees fit, and that the grant in question represents permissible discretionary spending by the executive branch. The challenge was initially brought in August by Rob Sherman, who has indicated on his website [advocacy website] that he intends to appeal the "bizarre" decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website].

In October, the Seventh Circuit rejected [JURIST report] Sherman's challenge to the constitutionality of an Illinois statute that mandated a daily moment of silence in public schools. The court reversed an April 2009 ruling [JURIST report] that the Illinois Reflection and Silent Prayer Act [text] is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion in public schools. The appellate court instead found that the statute had a secular legislative purpose that neither advanced nor inhibited religion.

 

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