This news item is a perfect example of what happens when government gets entangled with religion. Out in Pleasant Grove, Utah there’s a Ten Commandments monolith that has stood in a city park since 1971 and now the followers of a sect known as Summum want to expand the display with an additional monument that contains the Seven Aphorisms, which they believe Moses received from God during a second trip to the mountain top. They consider the original Ten Commandments to be the “lower laws” and the Seven Aphorisms to be the “higher laws” that would be less easily understood by the common man.
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. The request to be allowed to erect a monument has been denied by local officials so the Summums are suing.
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.
“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.
They have a very valid point. If the government is going to allow any religious displays on public property then in order to maintain a status of neutrality they must allow any and all religious displays on public property. In denying the request of the Summums the local government has violated the First Amendment by favoring one religious viewpoint over another. Not only should the Summums be able to erect a monument, but so should the Muslims, the Wiccans, the Buddhists, the Humanists, and any other recognized religious organizations that decide they want to participate so long as no tax payer money is used in the creation of said monuments. It’s an all or nothing situation as anything other than that implies government preference and is a violation of the First Amendment.
These cases put the lie to the claims of people who want to say that displaying the Ten Commandments on public property isn’t religiously motivated. If that were true they shouldn’t have a problem with other religions having the same opportunity to express their views on said public property. The Christians who deny others that option know damned well that the point is to imply the government only supports the Christian viewpoint and they don’t want it to be diminished by the inclusion of other religion’s sacred texts. Either make it open to all or remove any religious monuments from public property.
Thanks to Tom for passing this news item along to me.