Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Cert Filed in Summum Cases

Rememeber the Summum cases from Utah? Summum is a fringe religious groups that wants to put monuments to their principles, called the Seven Aphorisms, next to Ten Commandments monuments. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor in two cases involving two different cities in Utah, each of which had refused to allow such monuments. One of those cities, Pleasant Grove, has filed cert with the Supreme Court.

Interestingly, the city is being represented by the American Center for Law and Justice, Pat Robertson’s legal group. They are defending the notion that a city can choose to put up a monument to the beliefs of one religion while refusing to allow another religion to put up such a display. This flies in the face of a long history of open forum cases that the ACLJ itself has taken advantage of to get Christian groups access to public property and facilities.

The ACLJ’s press release says:

This is a critically important case that gives the Supreme Court an opportunity to rectify a lower court’s very twisted interpretation of the First Amendment. The lower court’s decision misses the crucial distinction between government speech and private speech. The government has to be neutral toward private speech, but it does not have to be neutral in its own speech. For example, a government cannot censor anti-patriotic speech, but that doesn’t mean the government itself has to utter unpatriotic messages.

A terrible analogy. The ACLJ ignores the entire analysis of what makes a limited public forum. The Ten Commandments monument in Pleasant Grove was put up by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. The city accepted the gift and put it up on public property. That is exactly what the Summum group wants to do, donate a monument to their aphorisms and have the city put it up. If the city can pick and choose which such monuments to accept and decide to put up only Christian monuments, this is, in fact, a clear endorsement of Christianity.

The Tenth Circuit confused this rule when it said private parties have a First Amendment right to put up the monuments of their choosing in a city park, unless the city takes away all other donated monuments. This ruling, if left unchecked, would ultimately force local governments to remove long-standing and well established patriotic, religious and historical displays. The ramifications of this flawed decision go well beyond Utah and affect every American city and town. It’s time for the Supreme Court to step in and bring an end to a dangerous interpretation of free speech and equal access.

Funny, the ACLJ didn’t find the limited open forum analysis “dangerous” when they were using it to get equal access for Lamb’s Chapel or for the Good News Club. Sounds to me like what they really want is exclusive access to public property for Christian groups and no access for anyone else.