Tribes & Environmental Groups Petition Supreme Court in Appeal to Protect Religious Freedom & Environmental Integrity of Sacred Mountain
FLAGSTAFF, AZ – On Monday, January 5th 2009, Tribes & environmental groups in Arizona filed a unified petition for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear appeals in a precedent setting legal battle to protect religious freedom and the ecological integrity of the holy San Francisco Peaks.
The slopes of the holy San Francisco Peaks, located in Northern Arizona, have been at the center of a historical and lengthy battle that has pitted economic interests on public lands against environmental integrity, public health and cultural survival. Arizona Snowbowl, a small private ski business that leases land from the U.S. Forest Service, is attempting to expand current development and use millions of gallons of recycled sewage water to make fake snow.
"This is an important case for the Supreme Court to hear. The Supreme Court, in a split decision, previously deprived Native Americans of First Amendment rights vis-à-vis sacred sites under the control of the federal government." said Howard Shanker, who represents Navajo Nation, Havasupai Tribe, White Mountain Apache Nation, Yavapai-Apache Nation, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Flagstaff Activist Network. "This case represents the last, best chance for Native Americans to have some substantive protection of sites that they hold holy or sacred through application of existing law." stated Shanker.
"In a country that supposedly values the free exercise and accommodation of all religion, it is unconscionable that Native American religious and cultural beliefs have essentially been relegated to second-class status by the federal government. The Supreme Court now has an opportunity to right this wrong." Shanker said.