Magazine article The Christian Century

High Court Rules against Sectarian Park Monument

Magazine article The Christian Century

High Court Rules against Sectarian Park Monument

Article excerpt

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a city park in Utah does not have to include a monument sought by a small religious sect even though it already features a Ten Commandments monument.

Summum, a Salt Lake City-based group, had argued that officials in Pleasant Grove City, Utah, violated its free speech rights when they did not permit a proposed monument reflecting the group's beliefs.

The "placement of a permanent monument in a public park is best viewed as a form of government speech," wrote Justice Samuel Alito in the unanimous opinion, "and is therefore not subject to scrutiny under the Free Speech Clause" of the First Amendment.

Jay Sekulow, the attorney who argued the case for the city, cheered the February 25 decision as a "great victory" for municipalities. He had argued that a decision against the city would have serious ramifications, perhaps forcing permission for a "Statue of Tyranny" to be erected near the Statue of Liberty.

Alito said that though Summum had "derided" such fears, they were "well founded." A town with a war memorial could have been forced to erect a monument questioning why veterans had fought in that war, Alito reasoned.

"This would have ... changed the way local government landscaped their parks and communicated their messages," said Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice.

Although the Supreme Court case centered on the free speech clause of the First Amendment, the establishment clause loomed in the background. …

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