Revisiting the First Amendment

Seven Aphorisms of the Summum FaithToday, the United States Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments on a case in which the decision will have a significant impact on the First Amendment. While scanning the NYT Washington news, this article jumped off of the screen and set sirens off in my head. I don’t know how many of you are civil libertarians, or if you even care, but believe me – this is serious.

It all stems from a letter sent to the mayor of Pleasant City Grove, Utah in 2003. Basically, the President of the Summum Church requested permission to donate a monument displaying the Seven Aphorisms of the Summum faith and have it placed in a public park, on the basis that there was already a monument displaying the Ten Commandments in place (also donated). The mayor denied the request – stating that the monument of the Ten Commandments has historical significance to the United States and being so, it is not an expression/promotion of faith but rather a historical monument. The Summum Church sued the city and ended up getting the answer they sought when a federal appeals court ruled in their favor citing that the First Amendment required that the city erect the monument.

So, here we are. The USSC is poised to render a decision that could have serious ramifications for public displays throughout the country. In his article, Adam Liptak brings forth the key element in this case:

“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.“- NYT 11/10/2008

Liptak also points out that the courts decided the matter at hand was not the First Amendment’s ban on government promoting religion, but rather the issue of free speech.

Well, what do you think?

Stay tuned.

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