AHA News |  

Humanists Predict Supreme Court Will Rule against Summum

November 12, 2008

For Immediate Release - Contact Fred Edwords at (202) 238-9088
fedwords@americanhumanist.org - www.americanhumanist.org

 

The U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in the case of Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, 07-665 – the first major religion case since Van Orden v. Perry and McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky were decided in 2005.

Summum’s attorney, Pamela Harris, argued today that Summum has the free speech and equal access rights to place a monument in the same park where the city permitted the Fraternal Order of Eagles to erect a Ten Commandments monolith in 1971. Pleasant Grove countered by saying that it owns and controls the Ten Commandments monolith and, therefore, it represents government speech, which is not subject to traditional free speech and equal access claims.

The American Humanist Association filed a friend of the court brief in support of neither party.

"In my opinion, the Supreme Court will reverse the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and hold that city parks are not public forums for donated permanent displays,” said Robert Ritter, legal coordinator for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the legal arm of the American Humanist Association. “We further asked the Court to send the case back to the district court for argument on whether the Eagles Ten Commandments monolith in Pioneer Park violates the Establishment Clause.”

However, because Summum did not ask Pleasant Grove to remove the Eagles Ten Commandments monolith from the Pioneer Park, the case before the Supreme Court only indirectly raises First Amendment concerns of government endorsement of religion. Harris and Brian Barnard, Summum’s attorney in the lower courts, both told Ritter that Summum would amend its complaint to include an Establishment Clause challenge to the presence of the Eagles monolith when the case is returned to the lower courts.

According to AHA’s brief, "By itself, the text of the Ten Commandments sends an overwhelmingly religious message, and the context in which the monument is displayed [in Pioneer Park] only heightens the effect of government endorsement of this message."

The brief also addresses the preference given by Pleasant Grove to the Judeo-Christian faiths. "The display of the Ten Commandments sends the message to nonadherents of Judeo-Christian religions that they are not full members of the political community....Although the Supreme Court has characterized a nearly identical Ten Commandments monument as nothing more than 'acknowledgement' of the role played by religion, there is no principled or neutral way to decide which beliefs are deserving of the government's 'acknowledgment' and which are not." 

The brief of the American Humanist Association further argued against allowing the Summum religious group to display its aphorisms in Pioneer Park, stating: “The goal of government neutrality toward religion can only be achieved with equal regard for majority and minority beliefs by ensuring that the wall separating church and state is ‘kept high and impregnable’” (quoting Everson v. Board of Education (1947)).

# # #

The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.

American Humanist Association

Washington Post illustration by Herblock from 1963. Still an unsettled issue......

16 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Our lawsuit challenging 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance is trending on F...

17 hours ago

American Humanist Association

A major newspaper in New Jersey. The Star-Ledger, published an editorial in supp...

19 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Did you catch Roy Speckhardt's interview on Fox and Friends this morning? Watch...

21 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Don't miss it! AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt will be on Fox and Friends...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Pledge of Allegiance without the use of "Under God" did not cause harm to t...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Great News! Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island just issued a proclamation r...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

A great video for Earth Day! Isaac Asimov discusses saving the planet for future...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Responding to reporters this morning as the AHA's latest case gets national atte...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Lots of press coverage this morning on our New Jersey lawsuit challenging 'under...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Earth Day Everyone! Be kind to your Earth. It's where you live!

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Congratulations to Ventura County, California for now officially recognizing May...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Taken from a 1940's Justice Society Of America comic before "Under God" was adde...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

The American Humanist Association has filed lawsuit against “Under God” in the P...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

The 2014 American Atheists Conference was awesome! Check out pictures of the Ame...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday Everyone!

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Humanist Poll! http://thehumanist.com/arts_entertainment/culture/your-humanist-...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Announcing our 2014 AHA Annual Conference Keynote Speaker, Professor Max Tegmark...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Have you had this problem? The Ethical Dilemma: My Son Sends Me E-Mails Signed...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Hurry! Going to the AHA annual conference in Philly? May 5th is the last day to...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Rules Are for Schmucks: Darwin Award Nominee by Luis Granados. http://thehumani...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Cartoon History of Humanism Episode Three: The Archpoet, 12th-Century Gang...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Throwback Thursday! The January/February, 1989 issue of the Humanist magazine...

7 days ago