Religious Displays Case Goes to Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court has agreed to review a ruling involving religious displays and government property. The case, Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum, involves the placement of a religious monument on government-controlled property (which already contains a Ten Commandments monument). SCOTUS will decide whether, under the First Amendment, the local government can control which (religious) monuments are erected, or if the park should be treated as an “open forum”.

“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 outcome of this case is going to be a big deal for religious minorities. Remember the battles over Pagan inclusion in government-sponsored religious displays in Green Bay and Ohio? A SCOTUS decision here could all but force local government bodies to enact a fully-open policy concerning religious displays on government-controlled property. In other words, the local city council or mayor couldn’t pick and choose which religious displays are worthy to be placed with a Nativity Scene or Ten Commandments monument. It would be all or nothing.

“…attorneys for the city argued that the appeals court’s ruling will require cities and states to remove longstanding monuments or permit groups to display any monument in public places. Led by Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, the attorneys said acceptance of a donated monument does not require ‘that a government park be turned into a cluttered junkyard of monuments contributed by all comers.'”

This could very well be an attempt by SCOTUS to settle this issue once and for all. The court has already ruled that isolated religiously-motivated displays are out, but that a religious monument can exist among a diversity of statues and monuments. Now the court will decide how much control a government body can have over which religiously-oriented monuments will be allowed on public property.

Arguments involving the case will be heard in October. Personally, I would rather we have a “cluttered junkyard” of religious monuments than an “orderly” singular endorsement of Judeo-Christian faith. If this case is decided in favor of a truly open forum regarding religious displays, perhaps Pagan groups should start saving up for a granite Nine Noble Virtues or Wiccan Rede. I think either would look great next to a Ten Commandments display, don’t you?