Feb. 25 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. Supreme Court said a Utah town doesn’t have to let a small religious group erect a display in a city park that already houses a monument depicting the Ten Commandments.
Writing for the court, Justice Samuel Alito said the Pleasant Grove monument represented “government speech,” exempting it from having to give private groups equal access under the Constitution’s free-speech clause.
A federal appeals court in Denver had said Pleasant Grove created a “public forum” in the park and generally would have to give all groups equal opportunity to erect monuments.
The Ten Commandments depict the rules that Jews and Christians believe God handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai. Summum, a Salt Lake City-based church founded in 1975, says its aphorisms came from an earlier set of tablets that Moses brought down from the mountain and then destroyed in anger.
The Summum aphorisms include “the principle of psychokinesis” and “the principle of correspondence.”
Today’s ruling didn’t directly concern the constitutional ban on establishment of religion, which was at issue in 2005 when the court allowed Ten Commandments displays on public property as part of a broader presentation. The latest case instead centered on the Constitution’s free-speech guarantee.
The case is Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, 07-665.
The Summum, a Latin term meaning the sum total of all creation, wants to erect its “Seven Aphorisms of Summum” monument in the city’s Pioneer Park.
The group, formed in 1975, says the Seven Aphorisms were given to Moses on Mount Sinai along with the Ten Commandments. Moses destroyed the tablet containing the aphorisms because he saw the people weren’t ready for them, the Summum say.
The Ten Commandments marker has stood in the park for nearly 50 years. It was erected by the Fraternal Order of Eagles.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled that the city violated the free speech rights of the Summum by rejecting the aphorisms.