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Atheist Appeals Bald Knob Cross Suit To Supreme Court

By Chris Bentley in News on Sep 6, 2012 9:00PM

2012_9_6_sherman.jpg An outspoken Chicago-area atheist has appealed to the highest secular adjudicators in the land, the Supreme Court, to protest a taxpayer-funded renovation of a gigantic porcelain-tiled cross in southern Illinois.

Robert Sherman sued in 2010, opposing a $20,000 grant made by the state in 2008 for repair of the Bald Knob Cross of Peace near Alto Pass, Ill. Located 130 miles southeast of St. Louis, the 111-foot tall religious icon had fallen into disrepair since its construction in 1963.

In June the 7th Circuit appeals court sided with a federal judge’s February 2011 decision that Sherman’s case was baseless because the state’s executive branch made the grant — not its legislature, as Sherman alleged. The three-judge panel also said his only potential recourse would have been an injunction to stop the disbursement of the funds at issue, which by that point had already been paid out.

Sherman, who acknowledges the unlikelihood that the Supreme Court will take up his case, argued in his original suit that the grant “has the primary effect of advancing a particular religious sect, namely Christianity.” His opponents disagree, the Associated Press reported:

Jeff Lingle, president of Friends of Bald Knob Cross, the landmark's fundraising arm, said Wednesday he found Sherman's latest appeal in the 2-year-old legal saga unsurprising. He argued the grant related to the landmark's tourism and “doesn't have anything to do with the religious aspect of it.”

The court could decide whether to accept or reject his appeal as soon as this fall.