The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday elected not to review lower court rulings against a lawsuit filed by an atheist over state funds used in part to restore the Bald Knob Cross of Peace.

Supporters of the cross restoration said the court’s ruling was a victory for common sense. The man who sued, Rob Sherman, said the court’s lack of action was a joke.

“Today's refusal to take my case means that any legislative body, whether it be Congress, a state legislature or a local unit of government, can make blatantly unconstitutional grants to advance religion simply by naming an executive branch agency as the middleman in the transaction,” Sherman said in a statement posted on his website, www.robsherman.com.

At issue was a $20,000 Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grant awarded in 2008 for a project to restore the 111-foot cross in Alto Pass. Sherman wanted the Friends of the Cross, a fundraising group, to refund the money.

Jeff Lingle, president of Friends of the Cross, said Sherman of Buffalo Grove failed to see beyond the religious symbolism of the cross, which Lingle said is also a draw for tourists.

“It’s been a long road, but it feels good,” said Lingle of the court’s denial of Sherman’s petition to be heard. “I guess we’ve been surprised many times by Mr. Sherman’s approach on this thing, so this is great.”

Sherman said in a statement that the Supreme Court could have made a stand against public funds being used for the promotion of religion.

“This is bad government,” Sherman wrote. “The Supreme Court should be issuing decisions that compel the executive and legislative branches of government to abide by the Constitution, rather providing the other two branches of government with a simple roadmap for violating and defying the Constitution with impunity.”

The president of the Bald Knob Cross of Peace board of directors, D.W. Presley, said the court’s lack of action was not a surprise and it affirmed the correctness of lower-court rulings.

“It’s definitely been a long a process,” Presley said. “It’s lasted several years, but as you well know there has been a great amount of progress in the meantime. That (grant) was just a very small portion of the total big picture of what’s gone on with the cross in the last several years.”

Friends of the Cross has raised more than $500,000.

On Twitter: @DW_Norris_SI

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