Monday, June 23, 2008

Liberty Counsel Files Brief at High Court in Free Speech Case Involving the Ten Commandments

Today, Liberty Counsel is filing an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in the case of Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum. Liberty Counsel's brief is being filed in support of Pleasant Grove City, which refused to display Summum's Seven Aphorisms. Summum argues that its Seven Aphorisms should be displayed, since the city displays a Ten Commandments monument donated by The Fraternal Order of Eagles.

Pleasant Grove City has 11 displays and monuments in Pioneer Park. The displays and monuments were donated by private persons or organizations over a period of more than 80 years. The displays and monuments have come from local people or organizations and depict the history of Mormonism and the city. In 1971, the city accepted a donated monument of the Ten Commandments from The Fraternal Order of Eagles. The city owns, maintains and controls the displays and monuments. The city may remove, modify, remake, or sell the monuments.

Summum is a religion and philosophy that began in 1975, as a result of Claude "Corky" Nowell’s alleged encounter with certain "beings" he describes as "Summum Individuals." Summum practices "Modern Mummification." The Seven Aphorisms include what Summum calls Psychokinesis, Correspondence, Vibration, Opposition, Rhythm, Cause and Effect, and Gender. Summum states that its teachings are similar to Gnostic Christianity.

When Pleasant Grove City rejected Summum's Seven Aphorisms on the basis that Summum was not a local organization nor was the gift associated with any history of the city, Summum filed suit, claiming the city must permanently display the Seven Aphorisms because the city displayed other donated monuments, including the Ten Commandments donated by The Fraternal Order of Eagles some thirty years ago. Incredibly, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Summum and ruled that the city must permanently display Summum's Seven Aphorisms. The American Center for Law and Justice represents the city and requested the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision.

By accepting donated displays, the city did not open a forum for everyone wishing to display a monument in the public park. The city owned the donated displays, and the city could remove, modify, remake or sell any of the displays. If the government were required to accept any conflicting message anytime the government spoke through a donated display, then the Statue of Liberty would need to make room for the Statue of Tyranny or perhaps a statue of Stalin or Adolf Hitler. It would not make sense to force the government to include a display devoted to atheism every time it displays a Nativity scene.

The Summum group has no legitimate interest in displaying its Seven Aphorisms. If the government had to display conflicting and confusing messages every time it displays a donated message, the Statue of Liberty would have to make room for the Statue of Tyranny.