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The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal of a ruling that 12-foot-high crosses along Utah highways in honor of dead state troopers violate the Constitution.

The justices voted 8-1 Monday to reject an appeal from Utah and a state troopers' group that wanted the court to throw out the ruling and take a more permissive view of religious symbols on public land.

Since 1998, the private Utah Highway Patrol Association has paid for and erected more than a dozen memorial crosses, most of them on state land. Texas-based American Atheists Inc. and three of its Utah members sued the state in 2005.

The federal appeals court in Denver said the crosses were an unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity by the Utah state government.

Justice Clarence Thomas issued a 19-page opinion dissenting from Monday's order. Thomas said the case offered the court the opportunity to clear up confusion over its approach to disputes over the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, the prohibition against governmental endorsement of religion.

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