Brazen Clutter of Public Landscape by Robert R. Tiernan (May 2002)

April 5 marked a year’s anniversary since a Judge in Adams County ordered the acquittal of Rodney Scott for allegedly removing a roadside memorial. The memorial consisted of a Christian cross and related paraphernalia placed by private citizens on the median strip at the intersection of Interstate 70 and East Colfax Avenue. Shortly after Scott allegedly removed the memorial, it was replaced.

In ordering Rodney Scott’s acquittal, the judge ruled that roadside memorials erected by private citizens are litter, unlawful advertising, and an unauthorized taking of public property for private use. The Judge also ruled that they are a distraction and present a hazard to the motoring public. Therefore, at the conclusion of Scott’s case, the Colorado Department of Transportation was asked to remove the roadside memorial at issue and similar memorials. CDOT has refused to do so.

A request was also made to the Adams County Sheriff to ticket those who brazenly clutter the public landscape with these objectionable displays. That request was refused. Bob Grant, the Adams County District Attorney who brought the Scott case, has also refused to file charges against these lawbreakers. Instead, he has appealed the Judge’s ruling. However, he did not ask for a stay, meaning that the ruling has all the force and effect of law and that CDOT should be removing these memorials and law enforcement should be prosecuting citizens who erect them.

To make matters worse, not only does the memorial Scott was charged with removing remain standing, new memorials have been popping up all over the State. In fact, such a memorial which contains a large figure of an angel was placed on the front lawn of CDOT’s Region 1 headquarters and it has been allowed to remain there.

Time and time again we hear our public officials say that the law is the law and that we must obey the law, like it or not. It’s obvious that the public officials responsible for implementing the ruling in the Rodney Scott case have decided that this principle does not apply to them. They’ll simply refuse to apply the law if it doesn’t happen to suit their fancy.

Freedom From Religion Foundation