Summum followers sue Utah in hopes of adding to Ten Commandments display.

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.

5 thoughts on “Summum followers sue Utah in hopes of adding to Ten Commandments display.

  1. From the looks of it the Summums have a perfectly good case. What’s the bet this ends with the monument being removed.

  2. 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.

    Does this mean that we can put up satanistic monuments, too?

    The commandments could go like this:

    1) Thou shalt kill at least once a week.

    2) Thou shalt engage in a orgy at least once a week.

    3) Thou shalt make sure every one knows you are a satanist and in doing so you must aggrevate the churches in america.

    4) Thou shalt not do an honest days work in your entire life; instead thou shalt steal all that you wish to posses.

    5) Just generally piss every one off.

    A rough draft that may need improvement. But I think its a start.

    Cheers BunBun

  3. I’ll take that bet.  Mormons are slow to evolve, but the majority aren’t stupid.  It’s the second richest church in the world, right behind the Catholics, and they have a pretty good PR unit. 

    The Mormon leadership does a pretty good roll with the punches.  Anyone who is familiar with the change in drinking laws in the state over the last 20 years should know what I’m talking about.

    Yeah, they might fight it a bit, but as the article says, once they got a substantive ruling, Ogden allowed other monuments to go into the public park.

    However, that doesn’t mean they mowed the lawn around said monuments, nor were they obligated to make pathways to them.  Subtle.

    Utah is one of those places where a separation of church and state is virtually non-existent.  Oddly enough, it’s also one of the more progressive religions in the live-and-let-live vein of things.  Sure, they come around to your door, and they feel an obligation to try to bring you into the fold, but the fuckers are sure damn polite about it.

    I went to high school in Utah, BTW, Ogden to be more precise.  I got a phenomenal education, as far as I’m concerned.  I took advanced biology, journalism, psych, a lot of other great courses that were well taught.  Religion was NEVER mentioned in any of the classes.  Health education taught about prophylactics and prevention, not just abstinence, and we had a significantly lower rate of teenage pregnancy than the national average (although I will admit that my school had a higher rate of drug use than normal.)

    I’m not saying that Utah is a place of progressive thought, or that these people wouldn’t prefer if the whole country were ultra-conservative.  I’m just saying they ain’t all bad, and I’d be willing to bet that once they get the court order, they’ll allow other monuments in a similar vein.

  4. I am looking forward to some variation on the following argument, because you just know some official spokesman is going to use it:

    “The 10 commandments are the basis of our government, and are only there as historical documents…the documents of other religions are not the basis of our government, and therefore are strictly religious in nature, and should not be displayed because of the 10 commandments.”

    So there’s where my betting money goes…to the historical revisionists.

    Side note to BunBun—the first one isn’t a legitimate stricture, as it advocates a specific crime of violence against other people. The other 4, however, are totally legit.

  5. I suppose we can change the commandments a bit to fit it’s needs. The ten commanments certainly were: the one about killing went from thou shalt not kill to thou shalt not murder. The difference is slight but it allows for justification of killing non-christians. This change was performed by pope urbon II shortly before the crusades began.

    Cheers BunBun

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