Oral argument: Oct. 7, 2009
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (May 14, 2008)
ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSE, WAR MEMORIAL, LATIN CROSS, SUNRISE ROCK
Salazar v. Buono concerns the Establishment Clause and a Latin cross on federal land. In 1934, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (“VFW”) erected a large Latin cross on Sunrise Rock in San Bernardino, California, commemorating veterans of World War I. In 2004, ten years after Sunrise Rock became federal parkland, Frank Buono sued the Secretary of the Interior. Buono argued that the cross’ presence on federal land violated the Establishment Clause. Buono won. While the case was on appeal, Congress attempted to transfer the land to the VFW. After the Court of Appeals affirmed Buono’s victory, Buono moved to enforce the judgment. The District Court then blocked the land transfer and ordered the removal of the cross. The Court of Appeals affirmed that enforcement action. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve whether Buono had standing to challenge the cross’ presence in the first place, and if he did, whether transfer to a private party corrects the Establishment Clause violation. This case may have implications for standing doctrine in religious injury cases. Furthermore, this case may provide guidance on the use of land transfer as a means to resolve Establishment Clause violations.