Why is the government paying 20K to repair a cross?
Alto Pass, Illinois is a rather small little village towards the southern tip of that state. A few hundred people. But at it is the center of controversy, because it is one more example of the government actively promoting religon, specifically Christianity. A 111 foot cross rises at the location.
That is fine, it is on private land. But, the problem arises is that it received $20,000 in government funds from the state of Illinois. It seems that millions of Christians in Illinois and surrounding states couldn't raise all the money necessary to repair this cross on their own. So they willingly took tax dollars paid for by those of all religions, and those of no religions, in order to do so.
But get this, Robert Sherman, an atheist who is an activist for church/state seperation out of Chicago, was denied standing by the federal courts on this issue. His lawsuit was dismissed because the money given by the government to repair this cross didn't come directly from an Illinois legisative budget vote but because of basically a slush fund for Illinois legislators to an executive agency in Illinois.
So in other words, you can violate the Constitution and prohibition by the government on funding religion, even churches, along as you do it in a certain way. To quote Mr. Sherman, this is indeed, a joke.
The idea of standing by the courts is too restrictive. Often lawsuits against illegal and unconstitutional practies are thrown out for lack of standing. For example, if the government engages in illegal stop/frisk practices against young black men in New York City (as it does) a lawsuit would be thrown out by the courts if you the suer weren't actually a young black man who experienced this, and you can't show a strong potentially of this happening to you in the future. Any constitutional violation though should be subject to challenge by anyone, because any constitutional violation is an affront to our civil rights.
So, prohibitions against interracial marriages or anti-gay sodomy took people imprisoned and punished by the government, to be able to be challenge. Effectively the government can harass, commit constitutional violations and violations of due process as much as they desire until someone is arrested, jailed and punished in some way, by the government. That is an awful way to run a government.
So, this case of the government paying for a cross is more than just the government promoting religion, it is about the government being able to violate the Constitution and get away with it because of the issue of standing.