Followers of the Summum faith say Moses made two trips down from the mountain. On one journey, the prophet returned with the Ten Commandments, “lower laws” that were easily understood and widely distributed.
The higher law obtained from the other trip, though, was passed down only to a select few who were able to appreciate it, according to the Salt Lake City-based religion.
But now, Summum is fighting a legal battle to share that higher law – the Seven Aphorisms, or principles that underlie creation and nature – with everyone in a public forum. The church has filed suit against Pleasant Grove over its refusal to allow it to erect its own monument in a city park that has held a Ten Commandments monolith since 1971.
In the lawsuit, Summum alleges the denial of its request to put up the Seven Aphorisms in the park at 100 North and 100 East counters previous rulings.
In two of them, handed down in 1997 and 2002, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver agreed that Salt Lake County and Ogden City had created a forum for free expression by allowing the erection of a Ten Commandments monument on government property.
The same standard applies to Pleasant Grove, Summum contends in its suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court.
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“The rights of plaintiff Summum are violated when the defendants give preference and endorsement to one particular set of religious beliefs by allowing the Ten Commandments monument to remain in a public park or in a forum within the public park supported by taxpayers and disallow a similar display of the religious tenets of Summum,” the suit says.
Brian Barnard, a Salt Lake City attorney for Summum, said a June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court also supports the church’s position. In a Texas case, the high court said a Ten Commandments monument could remain on the grounds of the state capitol because it was put up as part of a bigger historical display.
Pleasant Grove officials did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment.
That same U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Texas case has provided the latest twist in a separate suit against Pleasant Grove, this one filed in 2003 by the Society of Separationists that seeks to remove the Ten Commandments from the park.
In a Monday decision, the 10th Circuit reversed a ruling by U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins that allowed the monolith to remain.
The appeals court asked for additional information to help it analyze the case under the new Supreme Court analysis.
Summum, founded in 1975, is based on Egyptian customs, and includes winemaking and mummification. It has no monuments on public property because Salt Lake County and Ogden removed their Ten Commandments monuments in response to the 10th Circuit rulings.