The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a new case dealing with the display of religious symbols on public property.
The legal tussle comes from Utah, where members of a small religious group called Summum are seeking the right to display their “Seven Aphorisms” in a public park in Pleasant Grove. Members of the group say they should have that right since the park contains a Ten Commandments display.
The Commandments monument was donated to the city 47 years ago by the Fraternal Order of the Eagles. Local officials argue that the park is not an open forum and that the Commandments monument is government speech.
A federal appeals court disagreed, holding that it violates freedom of speech for government to allow one group’s message on public property and exclude others.
“If government creates an open forum, it can’t pick and choose among religions,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “Government officials could have avoided this controversy by refusing to put up the Ten Commandments in the first place.”
The case, Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, will be argued during the high court’s 2008-09 term, which begins on Oct. 6.
TV preacher Pat Robertson’s legal group, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), is defending the city. AU asserts that the ACLJ’s involvement in the case is further evidence that the organization seeks preferential treatment for Christianity and not equal treatment for all religions.