Guest / Limited Access /

In 1971, the Fraternal Order of Eagles donated a Ten Commandments monument to the City of Pleasant Grove, Utah. The city government put the monument in Pioneer Park.

So whose monument is it? Whose message is on the monument? The Fraternal Order of Eagles's? Or the government of Pleasant Grove's?

That's basically the question the Supreme Court took up today.

Actually, the case isn't precisely about Ten Commandments displays, and court watchers don't expect the justices to significantly reconsider its crazy and confusing Ten Commandments rulings from 2005. Rather, it is supposedly about another display: that of Summum "Corky" Ra, the leader of a small Gnostic sect based in Salt Lake City. He wants his "Seven Aphorisms" displayed in the park, too.

Ra says that by posting the Ten Commandments, Pleasant Grove turned Pioneer Park into a public forum. And in a public forum, when you allow one private message, you have to open it up to all comers. Excluding the Seven Aphorisms, he says, amounts to restricting free speech.

But the Ten Commandments is not private speech, Pleasant Grove says. It is government speech, and with government speech you don't have to offer opposing viewpoints. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, and said the monument was indeed private speech rather than government speech.

It sounds like a big church-state case, but whatever the Supreme Court decides, it probably won't affect church-state issues all that much. Both sides agree that this is really a free-speech case, not a religion case. Then again, a huge number of the oral arguments this morning focused on whether the Ten Commandments display itself violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, not whether leaving out the Summum display violates ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueAn Inside Look at China’s Remarkable Religious Resurgence
Subscriber Access Only
An Inside Look at China’s Remarkable Religious Resurgence
Journalist Ian Johnson sees faith on the rise where it was once ruthlessly suppressed.
RecommendedWhat You Probably Don’t Know about ‘The Least of These’
What You Probably Don’t Know about ‘The Least of These’
A more biblically accurate understanding of Jesus' words in Matthew 25.
TrendingRussia’s Plan to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses Puts Evangelicals in a Tight Spot
Russia’s Plan to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses Puts Evangelicals in a Tight Spot
Group gives Protestants competition for souls, but also an ally on religious freedom.
Editor's PickAfter 40 Girls Die in Orphanage Fire, Guatemala Asks Evangelicals for Advice
After 40 Girls Die in Orphanage Fire, Guatemala Asks Evangelicals for Advice
Tragedy becomes impetus for reforms sought by Christian experts.
Christianity Today
Ten Commandments Displays Head Back to Supreme Court
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

November 2008

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.