PLEASANT GROVE, UTAH – The U.S. Supreme Court today will hear an argument where two religious groups are fighting over whether one or both of them have the right to have their viewpoint heard. Summum, a small religious group that focuses on ancient Egyptian beliefs wants to erect a monument on public land listing “Seven Aphorisms,” but conservative Christian groups oppose it on the basis that it does not reflect their traditional values. The small plot of land already has a 10 comandments monument that has been there since 1971.
The Aphorisms offer seven principles of creation: psychokinesis, correspondence, vibration, opposition, rhythm, cause and effect, and gender.
Among the groups opposing Summum are the American Center for Law and Justice which will be arguing on behalf of the city.
“When it comes to a public park, the city cannot pick and choose,” said Brian Bernard, who heads the Utah Civil Rights and Liberties Foundation. “The city looked at the aphorisms and said these are odd, these are strange, we don’t want these in our park.”
Some conservative religious groups have been embarking on a religious agenda which bars competing viewpoints from the marketplace of ideas. This involves laying claim to “tradition” and moving to exclude practices which they perceive violate this sense of tradition. In reaching its decision, the Court will have to explain why one is more legitimate, or why both should be included, or why both should be excluded.
Can any religious group post whatever it wants, or are there limits? These are tough questions that underscore the wisdom of separation of church and state.
For more information on this from various sources, visit:
Summum – Home page
“The federal appeals court reached the right result, but regrettably, it ducked the issue at the heart of the case, which turns on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The real problem is that Pleasant Grove City elevated one religion, traditional Christianity, over another, Summum. ”
“The court of appeals’ approach would make the government’s display of the Statue of Liberty the speech of France, not the United States, entitling others to erect counter-monuments,” the [attorney Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice] said. “Likewise, the Vietnam, Korean, World War II, and upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr., monuments in the nation’s capital would likely be deemed private speech, not government speech, entitling Summum and everyone else with a monument to occupy their own corner of the National Mall.”
Thursday, November 6, 2008, American Constitution Society hosted a press briefing on Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum, a case that will be argued next week before the United States Supreme Court which addresses whether the city of Pleasant Grove violated the First Amendment rights of Summum, a religious organization whose members believe in the “Seven Aphorisms of Summum” as part of their faith, when the city refused to display the group’s proposed Seven Aphorisms monument in a public park that contained other privately donated but government-owned monuments. Experts and advocates from a variety of perspectives offered their analysis of the First Amendment Freedom of Speech and Establishment Clause issues implicated in the case, and previewed some of the points likely to be raised when the Supreme Court hears oral argument on Wednesday, November 12, 2008.
The panel featured:
- Moderator, Professor Ira “Chip” Lupu, F. Elwood and Eleanor Davis Professor of Law, The George Washington University Law School
- James Bopp, Jr., General Counsel, James Madison Center for Free Speech; Member of the Firm, Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom
- Ayesha Khan, Legal Director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State
- Daniel Mach, Director of Litigation, Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
- Robert Ritter, Legal Coordinator, Appignani Humanist Legal Center, American Humanist Association
Video will be available shortly at http://www.acslaw.org/node/7527