A legal group based in Washington, D.C., says it will take the display of the Ten Commandments cases of two Utah cities to the highest court in the country to get a final answer on the issue of speech on government property.
The American Center for Law and Justice has announced it plans to appeal the cases of Pleasant Grove and Duchesne cities to the U.S. Supreme Court. That comes after a circuit court upheld a federal judge's ruling that a Utah-based religious group had a right to erect its own monument in the two city parks as long as the Ten Commandments remained.
Last April the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled that the group Summum had a right under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to erect a display of its Seven Aphorisms next to displays of the Ten Commandments.
The ruling was similar to one the 10th Circuit issued in 2002 against Ogden city, which resulted in the city relocating its display onto nearby private property. All three city displays were donations from the Fraternal Order of Eagles many years ago.
ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow said it is likely the Supreme Court would consolidate both city cases for the sake of argument.
"It's an extremely important case," Sekulow said. "It's obvious this case has national implications."
According to ACLJ's Web site, a citizen's petition has been started to show support for its cause. Endorsing the petition are Pleasant Grove Mayor Michael Daniels and Duchesne Mayor Clinton Park. Messages sent to both men were not returned Tuesday.
"This is a very troubling decision that, left standing, could alter the landscape of America's cities and towns by forcing local governments to remove long-standing patriotic, religious and historical displays in order to comply with a twisted interpretation of the First Amendment," Sekulow said in a statement announcing the decision to take the cases to the high court.
Summum attorney Brian Barnard said he doubts the nation's highest court will take the case, mainly because ACLJ must convince the justices that the case is of national interest.
"These cases are not of national importance. These cases are a matter of simple fairness," Barnard said. "It does not take a constitutional scholar to know that if a city allows one private group to dictate the content and erect its own monument, then the city must allow everyone to do the same."
Barnard also pointed out that between 5,000 and 6,000 petitions are filed before the U.S. Supreme Court each year, and only about 50 are granted.
ACLJ was granted a stay by the 10th Circuit pending an appeal to the Supreme Court, meaning the two monuments will stand for now.Sekulow said the organization is working on its formal petition to the Supreme Court. After that is filed, Summum will have time to file a response. Sekulow said ACLJ may find out around January whether the high court will accept the case.
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