A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that followers of the Summum faith can display their Seven Aphorisms in Duchesne and Pleasant Grove city parks that already hold monuments of the Ten Commandments.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted that the parks are public forums, and restrictions on speech based solely on its content are forbidden except in narrow circumstances.
The two decisions overturned rulings by U.S. District Judge Dee Benson that blocked Summum’s proposed monuments. In the Pleasant Grove case, the court said requiring the city to permit display of Summum’s tenets will further free speech.
Salt Lake City attorney Brian Barnard, who represented Summum in both cases, applauded the rulings. “It’s a good day for the First Amendment,” he said.
Pleasant Grove City Attorney Tina Peterson and Duchesne Mayor Clint Park declined comment Tuesday. They referred questions to Edward White III, an attorney with the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan, which is helping defend the municipalities against the Summum lawsuits.
White said he had not yet reviewed the rulings. Both cities have the option of seeking a rehearing from the 10th Circuit, he noted.
Summum had argued that if a municipality allows one group to put up a monument in a public park, it must give other groups an equal opportunity to put up their own. Barnard said removing the Ten Commandments monoliths would end the religious organization’s lawsuit.
However, the lawyer hopes city officials keep the monuments. Members of the Summum faith “believe their Seven Aphorisms displayed in public will make this world a better place, just as the display of the Ten Commandments makes the world a better place,” he said.
Members of Summum sued Duchesne in 2003 and Pleasant Grove in 2005 after the cities rejected their offered displays, proposed to be similar in size and nature to the Ten Commandments.
Summum, a religion based on Egyptian customs and headquartered in a pyramid-shaped temple in Salt Lake City, was founded in 1975. The religion’s aphorisms involve psychokinesis, correspondence, vibration, opposition, rhythm, cause and effect, and gender.
Contributing to this story were Robert Boczkiewicz and Christopher Smart.