Summum Goin’ On

Pleasant Grove City has won a battle in the legal war with Summum, Utah’s local pyramid/wine/sex cult. From what I’ve read, it appears that the matter is far from over, though, as this particular battle was narrowed in its scope to its free speech component. In essence, the Supremes have ruled that monuments simply aren’t speech the same way that, say, speeches are. Therefore, Pleasant Grove, in this particular case is not the referee amongst competing speakers–instead they are the speakers themselves, and having adopted and placed the ten commandments monument has made it into the city’s own speech. So you can’t prohibit their choice on free speech grounds. BUT…the issue has more clearly moved over into establishment clause turf. Which is a whole nother ball of wax altogether.

Predictably, Scalia, who would probably argue that forcing every American to wear rosary beads and say the Lord’s prayer hourly was merely an expression of our cultural roots, argues that Pleasant Grove City is in no further danger:

The city ought not fear that today’s victory has propelled it from the Free Speech Clause frying pan into the Establishment Clause fire. Contrary to respondent’s intimations, there are very good reasons to be confident that the park displays do not violate any part of the First Amendment.

Souter has a different take:

Even though…Establishment Clause issues have been neither raised nor briefed before us, there is no doubt that this case and its government speech claim has been litigated by the parties with one eye on the Establishment Clause. The interaction between the “government speech doctrine” and Establishment Clause principles has not, however, begun to be worked out.

Let the fun continue! And if the Summum folk happen to read this, can I get on your mailing list? I really want to attend your next party. Er, service.


Loves to read books. Frequently does so. Currently lives and works in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

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2 Responses

  1. Hellmut says:

    I am in two minds about the question whether private parties should be allowed to place monuments with religious symbols on public property.

    Usually, I am against it. But if the Veterans of Foreign Wars, for example, place a cross to remember the war dead, I would be willing to respect tradition.

  2. bloggernacleburner says:

    The current court is passing the buck to a future court. The issue will be decided, but evidently not on free speech grounds. The argument will be decided on establishment clause grounds

    That was one tightly written and very specific decision.

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