Supreme Court to Hear Religion's Freedom of Speech Case

April 05, 2008 04:34 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the Pleasant Grove City v. Summum case, which highlights the issue of freedom of expression in public forums.

30-Second Summary

The Summum religious organization, which is based out of a pyramid in Salt Lake City, asked to erect a monument depicting its faith’s “Seven Aphorisms.” The aphorisms were to stand in a public park in Pleasant City, Utah, next to the Ten Commandments.

Summum "Corky" Ra founded the nonprofit group he shares a name with in 1975. It claims to derive many of its beliefs and practices (which include mummification) from ancient Egypt. According to The Washington Post, the group says the Seven Aphorisms “are lesser-known instructions that Moses received from God.”

The city refused the summum members' request, and they took the matter to court, arguing that their right to freedom of speech required the city to comply.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Summum, asserting that the Ten Commandments display, donated by the Fraternal Order of the Eagles in 1971, was private speech in a public forum, and therefore the city “could not arbitrarily refuse Summum’s request,” according to the First Amendment Center.

However, the city reasons that the Ten Commandments display became government speech once it was donated to the park, and the city is not required to maintain parity in that case.

Those opposed to Summum’s request invoke a broader, slippery-slope argument: if the Supreme Court supports Summum, public places throughout the country will have to accede to a potential flood of such requests; war memorials and patriotic historical monuments will be threatened by displays honoring contrary points of view.

A brief filed by a coalition of veterans groups said that this would mean that if someone wanted to erect a monument to Japanese kamikaze pilots next to the Iwo Jima memorial, the request would have to be honored.

Headline Link: ‘With the Commandments, Must City Make Room?’

Key Player: Summum

Opinion & Analysis: Both sides of the debate

Related Topic: ‘Supreme Court Splits on Ten Commandments’

Video: Stephen Colbert on the Ten Commandments in public places


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