[On Wednesday] the Supreme Court decided in Pleasant Grove City v. Summum that placing a permanent monument in a public park generally constitutes a form of government speech and therefore does not trigger First Amendment concerns. However, the Court also recognized an important exception for invited "private messages" installed on permanent public monuments, an argument the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty made to the Court in an amicus brief.
"We are pleased that the Supreme Court agreed with our amicus brief that governments can accept some monuments in public parks and reject others," said Eric Rassbach, National Litigation Director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. "What governments can’t do is invite private citizens to speak on government property and then kick them out when they say something the government doesn’t like."
In the Pleasant Grove City case, a small Gnostic group known as Summum sought to place a monument to its "Seven Aphorisms" in a Utah public park, alongside a Ten Commandments monument donated decades ago by Fraternal Order of Eagles. Summum claimed that its Aphorisms should get equal space with the Ten Commandments. The lower court agreed, and ordered Pleasant Grove City to erect Summum’s monument. The Supreme Court’s decision today overturns Summum’s victory in the lower court.
"The Court has carefully drawn a line between private speech and government speech that protects both local governments from a wave of clutter and religious speakers from government discrimination," said Rassbach. "As Justice Scalia said, the city and its citizens can now all ‘safely exhale.’"
Becket Fund attorneys are available to speak on the case and its impact. To arrange an interview with a Becket Fund attorney, contact Kristina Arriaga at (cell) 703.582.8962 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Click here for the pdf of the Becket Fund amicus brief on behalf of Robert and Mildred Tong.