By Kathleen Gilbert
WASHINGTON, D.C., February 26, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The United States Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that a Utah city can display the Ten Commandments in a public park without giving quarter to a different religious viewpoint.
In a landmark 9-0 decision, the Court ruled that the City of Pleasant Grove, Utah, need not accommodate the demands of a small religious sect known as the Summum, who sued the city for rejecting a monument of the religion’s "Seven Aphorisms" for display in the same park.
The sect had earlier convinced an appeals court that their free speech was violated by the city council’s rejection, which had cited a requirement that park displays be related to city history or be donated by groups with longtime community ties. The Summum were founded in Salt Lake City in 1975.
"It is hard to imagine how a public park could be opened up for the installation of permanent monuments by every person or group wishing to engage in that form of expression," wrote Justice Samuel Alito in the Supreme Court’s decision.
The decision to uphold Pleasant Grove’s right to display the Commandments could have widespread impact suggest commentators.
"It’s a landmark decision that clears the way for government to express its views and its history through the selection of monuments - including religious monuments and displays," said Jay Sekulow, an American Center for Law and Justice attorney who argued for the city.
Some, however, interpreted the ruling as a victory for secularism, against state association with religion. The American Humanist Association stated that the ruling was "just what it needs to pursue the removal of Ten Commandments monuments on public property" because, they argue, such monuments "are unconstitutional government endorsements of religion."
But in a separate published opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia said that the city "ought not fear that today’s victory has propelled it from the Free Speech Clause frying pan into the Establishment Clause fire," as "there are very good reasons to be confident that the park displays do not violate any part of the First Amendment.
"The city can safely exhale. Its residents and visitors can now return to enjoying Pioneer Park’s wishing well, its historic granary - and, yes, even its Ten Commandments monument - without fear that they are complicit in an establishment of religion," wrote Scalia.
A Boise, Idaho group fighting for the return of a Ten Commandments display that was removed from a city park several years ago, says the ruling confirms their position.
Because the Court vindicated the right of a city to determine which public display to erect, The Keep the Commandments Coalition is calling on Boise to replace a 40-year-old Ten Commandment monument, which was removed from Julia Davis Park in 2004.
"This decision vindicates the Keep the Commandments Coalition and the tens of thousands of people who believed in preserving the public display of the timeless values of the Ten Commandments and protecting a valuable part of Boise’s history," stated Brandi Swindell, co-founder of the Coalition.
But Boise officials maintain that the Ten Commandments will remain at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, where it was deposited after the controversy, despite the Supreme Court ruling.
"Over 52 percent of Boise residents voted to keep the monument where it is. The people of Boise have spoken and this issue has been resolved," city spokesman Adam Park said Wednesday.