The line of separation between church and state is often blurry. A recent Supreme Court case is dealing with this blurry line once again.
The Summum church wants to erect a monument inscribed with the Seven Aphorisms next to a monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments in a public park in Pleasant Grove City, Utah.
The church, founded in 1975, is derived from elements of Egyptian faiths and Gnostic Christianity. Followers of the religion believe Moses received two sets of tablets on Mount Sinai. The first set had the aphorisms, which were the principles of creation. Moses decided the people weren’t ready for the principles of creation, so he smashed them. The next set of tablets were the Ten Commandments.
The mayor of Pleasant Grove City declined the president of the Summum church’s request, and now the city faces a lawsuit stating that the city is required by the First Amendment to display the Summum church’s monument. The Supreme Court heard the case Nov. 12.
The federal appeals court in Denver sided with the Summum church last year and ordered the city to allow the group to put up their monument.
The Summum church’s followers say that it is a violation of their right to free speech for the city to deny them the right to erect a monument in a public park where a Christian monument already stands.
If the city is going to allow one religion to erect a monument, then it has to let every other religion to do so also. The city officials are absolutely violating the Summum church’s First Amendment rights if they do not allow them to also build a monument.
In America, we have a separation of church and state. Some people may not like that other religions can say what they want, but if Christianity can have a monument, then other religions cannot be excluded. It is not the government’s job to keep any religious group from having equal rights with any other religious group.
A brief from the Summum church in the Nov. 11 edition of the New York Times said, “The government may not take sides in a theological debate.”
In America, people have the right to express themselves and their beliefs freely. The government cannot discriminate against any group no matter how strange or out of the ordinary.
If the government does not want specific monuments in public, then the government should not let there be any monuments. It is not fair to accept some but reject others.
Imagine some of the other cases the Supreme Court has dealt with and what would have happened if the government oppressed free speech. America could still be segregated, or worse, still have slavery. Women could still be denied voting rights or equal opportunity in education and school.
America is about justice for all, not just a chosen few. Time and time again, the Supreme Court has had to go back to the roots of this country’s constitution and remind U.S. citizens that freedom applies to everyone.
While the city officials in Pleasant Grove City have a viable argument that allowing this group to erect a monument in a public park could open the door to unfathomable clutter across the country of all kinds of monuments, the situation will come down to the Supreme Court’s decision.
The city officials’ argument seems weak. Their comment that by allowing this monument in a park will just end up cluttering parks all over the country with monuments is not a good enough reason to keep the Summum monument out.
Their argument is weakened further by the fact that there is a Christian monument already in the park that was donated. While officials say the Christian monument pays tribute to the Mormon heritage of the area, the Summum monument would also pay tribute to the heritage of the Summum religion, which was founded in Utah.
While this small religious might seem a little strange, its practitioners have the same rights as those of any other religion, especially in public.
Michelle Anderson is a senior broadcast journalism major from Tyler.