Now, how could this issue be of any concern of the SCOTUS when it's so damn hard to get them to take any 2A cases? I really don't get it.
From Tiny Sect, Weighty Issue for Justices
By ADAM LIPTAK
Published: November 10, 2008
PLEASANT GROVE CITY, Utah " Across the street from City Hall here sits a small park with about a dozen donated buildings and objects " a wishing well, a millstone from the city’s first flour mill and an imposing red granite monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments.
Tom Smart for The New York Times
Summum leaders, from left, Bernie Aua, Su Menu and Ron Temu, at their headquarters in Salt Lake City. The group wants to install a monument bearing its Seven Aphorisms.
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Tom Smart for The New York Times
A park monument in Pleasant Grove City, Utah, is inscribed with the Ten Commandments.
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Thirty miles to the north, in Salt Lake City, adherents of a religion called Summum gather in a wood and metal pyramid hard by Interstate 15 to meditate on their Seven Aphorisms, fortified by an alcoholic sacramental nectar they produce and surrounded by mummified animals.
In 2003, the president of the Summum church wrote to the mayor here with a proposal: the church wanted to erect a monument inscribed with the Seven Aphorisms in the city park, “similar in size and nature” to the one devoted to the Ten Commandments.
The city declined, a lawsuit followed and a federal appeals court ruled that the First Amendment required the city to display the Summum monument. The Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear arguments in the case, which could produce the most important free speech decision of the term.
The justices will consider whether a public park open to some donations must accept others as well. In cases involving speeches and leaflets, the courts have generally said that public parks are public forums where the government cannot discriminate among speakers on the basis of what they propose to say. The question of how donated objects should be treated is, however, an open one.
Inside the pyramid, sitting on a comfortable white couch near a mummified Doberman named Butch, Ron Temu, a Summum counselor, said the two monuments would complement each other.
“They’ve put a basically Judeo-Christian religious text in the park, which we think is great, because people should be exposed to it,” Mr. Temu said. “But our principles should be exposed as well.”
Su Menu, the church’s president, agreed. “If you look at them side by side,” Ms. Menu said of the two monuments, “they really are saying similar things.”
The Third Commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
The Third Aphorism: “Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates.”
Michael W. Daniels, the mayor here, is not the vibrating sort.
Sitting with the city attorney in a conference room in City Hall, Mr. Daniels deftly drew several fine lines in explaining why the city could treat the two monuments differently.
Only donations concerning the city’s history are eligible for display in the park as a matter of longstanding policy, he said, and only when donated by groups with a long association with the city. The Fraternal Order of Eagles, a national civic organization, donated the Ten Commandments monument in 1971.
The donations, Mr. Daniels went on, are transformed when the city accepts them. “Monuments on government property become government speech,” he said.
Under the First Amendment, the government can generally say what it likes without giving equal time to opposing views; it has much less latitude to choose among private speakers.
Asked what the government is saying when it displays the Ten Commandments, Mr. Daniels talked about law and history. He did not mention religion.
Pressed a little, he retreated.
“The fact that we own the monument doesn’t mean that what is on the monument is something we are espousing, promoting, establishing, embracing,” Mr. Daniels said. “We’re looking at, Does it fit with the heritage of the people of this area?”
Brian M. Barnard, a lawyer for the Summum church, said the city’s distinctions were cooked up after the fact as a way to reject his client’s monument. The local chapter of the Eagles, Mr. Barnard added, had only been in town two years when it donated the Ten Commandments monument.
“We have a city that will allow one organization to put up its religious ideals and principles,” Mr. Barnard said. “When the next group comes along, they won’t allow it to put up its religious ideals and principles.”
Last year, the federal appeals court in Denver sided with the Summum church and ordered Pleasant Grove City to erect its monument.