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U.S. Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Church Appeal In O'Hare Cemetery Case

By Marcus Gilmer in News on May 13, 2008 4:49PM

2008_05_cemetery.jpgOn Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by St. John's United Church of Christ in Bensenville in their case to prevent the relocation of their cemetery, home to 1,300 graves, to make way for a new runway as part of O'Hare Airport's $15 billion expansion plan. Even though O'Hare officials claim they will move forward with their plans to notify the families of grave occupants about the cemetery relocation, no official action can be taken until all litigation surrounding the proposed move has concluded. The church and the city of Bensenville are still fighting the move with separate cases in DuPage County Circuit Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington.

The Supreme Court refusal allows a ruling by a federal appeals court in Chicago to stand. That ruling said the First Amendment did not protect the graves from being relocated because the move would be for secular reasons. This, however, is not the last we'll hear of religion in this case.

Still at issue before the U.S. Court of Appeals is whether under federal statutes there is religious law protection for the cemetery. The case is before the federal appeals court because O'Hare expansion opponents argued that the Federal Aviation Administration's approval of funding for the airport project constitutes significant federal involvement in a local issue.

The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act makes it illegal for government to take action that interferes with religion, unless the government can prove the action is justified.

We assume all of this means that none of the justices involved have ever seen Poltergeist. Don't come crying to us when your flight from O'Hare to Dulles is haunted by ghosts. This means you, Scalia. [Trib]

Photo courtesy of Mister Buckets Serious Time