A U.S. Forest Service climbing ban on a Lake Tahoe landmark is unconstitutional because it promotes religion, a rock climbing group contends.
In papers filed Thursday in support of its federal lawsuit against the agency, The Access Fund claims the ban at Cave Rock gives control over public property to the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.
The Boulder, Colo.-based group maintains the tribe has always said Cave Rock is a religious, sacred site. The Washoe tribe has opposed climbing on Cave Rock, located on U.S. 50 between Glenbrook and Zephyr Cove on Tahoe's east shore.
The Access Fund argues the ban runs contrary to other federal court rulings that have held mandatory closures of public lands for religious purposes are unconstitutional.
In a case involving Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming, the court allowed only a voluntary climbing closure of the monolith during tribal religious ceremonies each June.
The group also asked the court to reject a Forest Service amendment declaring Cave Rock closed to climbers as "a protection of traditional and cultural property."
"Listing Cave Rock as a traditional cultural property does not change the fundamental nature of Cave Rock as a religious site," the complaint argues.