A legal group based in Washington, D.C., announced Tuesday that it has filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a decision allowing a Utah religious group to erect its own monuments next to two displays of the Ten Commandments in Pleasant Grove and Duchesne cities.
"Today we are asking the Supreme Court of the United States to review and overturn a lower court decision that would force local governments across the country either to dismantle a host of monuments, memorials and other displays, including long-standing patriotic and historical displays, or else let all comers install privately owned monuments or displays, regardless of content," stated a release by the American Center for Law and Justice, which is legally representing Pleasant Grove and Duchesne.
The statement said the petition will give the Supreme Court a chance to "rectify a lower court's very twisted interpretation of the First Amendment."
The move comes after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals last April 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 decision upheld a Utah federal judge's ruling.
ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow has argued that the 10th Circuit has confused public speech with private speech, and that such monuments should reflect the standards and values of the community.
Sekulow also argues that the 10th Circuit decision conflicts with other circuits, requiring the Supreme Court to review the case.
Summum attorney Brian Barnard says he doubts the Supreme Court will hear the case. The 10th Circuit decision is similar to one it issued in 2002 against Ogden, which forced city officials to remove its Ten Commandments display from city property and relocate it onto private property nearby.
"It does not require a constitutional scholar to understand simple fairness. If a government entity allows one group to erect a permanent monument in a public park expressing religious beliefs dear to that group, other groups should be allowed to display similar tenets of faith," Barnard said. "Pleasant Grove seeks to perpetuate a misguided policy that allows it to support and display one set of religious beliefs to the exclusion of others."
All three displays were donations from the Fraternal Order of Eagles many years ago.If the Supreme Court declines to hear the case, the 10th Circuit decision will stand.
E-mail: [email protected]