November 12, 2008

Supreme Court Hears Ten Commandments Case

The U.S. Supreme Court heard argument Wednesday on whether a city must accept all displays on public land if it allows one -- in this case the Ten Commandments.

The case comes out of Pleasant Grove City, Utah. The city's Pioneer Park has several "unattended" displays, including a Ten Commandment monument donated by the Eagles, a fraternal organization.

However, when a religious group called Summum, founded in 1975 and based in Salt Lake City, wanted to install its own Seven Principles of Creation (or Seven Aphorisms) monument, the city rejected the application.

A U.S. appeals court in Denver eventually ruled that if the city accepts one monument, it had to accept the other.

Lawyers for the city and the Bush administration argued that the country's parks would be smothered in displays if all must be accepted, The Salt Lake City Tribune said. "The Vietnam Wall Memorial did not open us up to a Viet Cong Memorial," Assistant U.S. Solicitor General Daryl Joseffer said, the newspaper reported.

Summum attorney Pamela Harris said the National Mall, where the Wall is placed, is protected by the free speech exception on federal government land, but Pleasant Grove claims the Ten Commandments monument isn't even city owned.

A decision is expected before the court term ends in late June.

(No. 07-665, Pleasant Grove City vs. Summum)