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Establishment Clause Case Involving Cross On Federal Lands

By FindLaw Staff on April 28, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Salazar v. Buono, No. 08-472, concerned an action involving an underlying Establishment Clause challenge to a Latin cross placed on federal land by members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) to honor American soldiers who died in World War I.  The Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit's order precluding the government from transferring the cross and the land on which it stood to the VFW in order to comply with a prior injunction, holding that 1) plaintiff had standing to maintain the instant action because a party that obtains a judgment in its favor acquires a "judicially cognizable" interest in ensuring compliance with that judgment; but 2) the district court erred in enjoining the government from implementing the land-transfer statute on the premise that the relief was necessary to protect plaintiff's rights under the 2002 injunction.

As the Court wrote:  "The Court is asked to consider a challenge, not to the first placement of the cross or its continued presence on federal land, but to a statute that would transfer the cross and the land on which it stands to a private party. . . . The District Court permanently enjoined the Government from implementing the statute. The Court of Appeals affirmed. We conclude that its judgment was in error."

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