Seven aphorisms? Ed, don’t you mean the ten commandments? Nope. The seven aphorisms of the Summum religion, a group that preaches and practices “mummification and transference.” The 10th Circuit is currently handling two cases where Summum wanted to place monuments to the seven aphorisms in public parks where there were already monuments to the ten commandments on display. Predictably, the cities where they wished to do so refused to allow their monument, prompting lawsuits. The 10th Circuit appeals court ruled in favor of Summum in both cases. I’ll let Howard Friedman explain the rulings in the two cases below the fold:
In Summum v. Pleasant Grove City, (10th Cir., April 17, 2007), the court of appeals held that Summum was entitled to a preliminary injunction permitting it to erect its monument in a city park that already featured a number of displays relating to the city’s pioneer history as well as a 10 Commandments monument donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. Holding that a park is a traditional public forum, the court rejected the city’s attempt to restrict park monuments on the basis of their historical relevance to the city, saying that the city offered no reason why this was a “compelling” interest that would permit content based restrictions on monuments. While the city might create content-neutral restrictions on aesthetic grounds, it has not done so here.
The second case, Summum v. Duchesne City, (10th Cir., April 17, 2007), was more complicated. Here, apparently the only display already in the city’s park was a 10 Commandments monument, and the city attempted to avoid Summum’s request by transferring the land under the Ten Commandments display to a private party. Initially the land was transferred to the Lion’s Club, and– after questions were raised about the propriety of that transfer– the land was re-transferred to private individuals. Also a fence was put up around the Ten Commandments with a sign saying that the land did not belong to the city. Summum requested transfer to it of a similar size piece of land in the park.
Here’s what jumps out at me about the two cases: the lengths both cities were willing to go to in making sure that only their own religion had access to public property and could put up a public display of the tenets of their religion. Duchesne City repeatedly tried to find some loophole around the constitution in order to preserve exclusive access for their own religion. Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?
Congratulations to Howard, by the way, for the 2 year anniversary of his blog, Religion Clause. His blog is one of the very first I visit every day because he chronicles virtually every church/state case going on in the country at all times. Very valuable source of information. Keep up the great work, Howard.