The Supreme Court decided Monday, March 31 to review the case of a 33-year-old religious organization that wants to have its tenets posted in a Utah municipal park near a monument of the Ten Commandments.
The justices will consider the case of Pleasant Grove City v. Summum after the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the city should erect the church's "Seven Aphorisms" monument.
In their request for the high court's consideration, lawyers for the city said the appellate court's decision could "impose severe practical burdens on government entities" and affect their control of public land.
"The Supreme Court is faced with a dramatic opportunity: preserve sound precedent involving the well-established distinction between government speech and private speech or permit a twisted interpretation of the Constitution to create havoc in cities and localities across America," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, and the lawyer representing Pleasant Grove City.
The attorney representing Summum, which is based in Salt Lake City, was not available for comment.
The church was incorporated in 1975. According to its website, Moses received the "aphorisms that outlined principles underlying Creation and all of nature" during one trip to Mount Sinai and received the Ten Commandments on a second trip to the mountain.
Summum has called the city's denial of its request to erect the aphorisms monument a violation of free expression guaranteed by the First Amendment.
In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that religious monuments on public grounds are constitutional, but suggested they need to be displayed with other historical images or documents to avoid an overtly religious message.