The history of cross that stands on top of Table Rock has had a volatile 60 plus year history.
The controversy began in the 1956 when the Junior Chamber of Commerce, or Jaycees, built the cross on what was then Department of Correction land. At the time the Department of Correction owned a 109-acre tract that included the bluff of Table Rock.
On June 10, 1970, the Jaycees submitted a requested the Board of Correction for the purchase a 44-foot-by-70-foot parcel of land that would surround the land around the cross.
On June 25, 1971, the Correction Board deemed the desired land surplus and turned it over to the Idaho Department of Lands. Idaho Board of Land Commissioners records reveal that because the requested land was on the very edge of Table Rock’s ledge, the Board of Correction did not feel it would negatively impact the surrounding state owned land.
Sale of the land was the responsibility of the Land Board. In November of 1971 an auction was held for the sale of the land with the appraised price of $100.00. The sale of the land was advertised in the The Idaho Statesman weekly for a period of six weeks. The Jaycees and a man named Paul Kimball signed up as bidders, though Kimball did not actually place a bid.
The land was sold to the Jaycees for $100.00. From then on the cross has been considered to be on private property.
On December 16, 1994, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) penned a letter to the Land Board asserting the sale of the parcel of land was both unconstitutional and a violation of state law. The letter stated the Land Board had taken the liberty of refusing bids other than the Jaycee’s. It also accused the Land Board of restricting media coverage, which they claimed had left the general public in the dark. In March of 1995 Land Board members voted and rejected the ACLU’s request to void the sale.
Controversy escalated in November of 1999 when (self-described) atheist human rights activist Rob Sherman gave a speech at BSU claiming the Jaycees were a “bunch of criminals” and threatened action to bring the cross down. The dispute resulted in over 10,000 people participating in a march from the Boise Depot to the Statehouse to save the Table Rock cross.
REFERENCES: The Idaho Statesman, November 28, 1999. "Cross Parcel Sold Surplus" by Tim Jackson, and The Idaho Statesman, December 5, 1999. "Outside Treat Spurs Thousands to Stand Up for Table Rock Cross" by Dan Popkey.