The Supreme Court today announced it will review a case that could be used to install a “Statue of Tyranny” to oppose the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.
“We’re delighted that the Supreme Court agreed to take this critical case – it’s exactly what we were hoping for,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents the city of Pleasant Grove, Utah, in the dispute.
“The Supreme Court is faced with a dramatic opportunity: Preserve sound precedent involving the well-established distinction between government speech and private speech – or permit a twisted interpretation of the Constitution to create havoc in cities and localities across America,” Sekulow said. “The lower court decision – if left unchecked – would ultimately force local governments to remove long-standing and well-established patriotic, religious and historical displays.”
The interpretation under review by the Supreme Court was made by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
That court ruled in August against revisiting its original decision in a case involving the Utah cities of Pleasant Grove City and Duchesne City. A lower court had ordered the cities to allow monuments containing the “Seven Aphorisms” of an organization called Summum to be erected on public property. The alternative was for the cities to remove all monuments with other sayings, primarily the Ten Commandments, many of which were donated and erected decades ago.
“The lower court decision misses a key distinction between government speech and private speech,” Sekulow said. “The government has to be neutral toward private speech, but it does not have to be neutral in its own speech. The 10th Circuit confused this rule when it said private parties have a First Amendment right to put up the monuments of their choosing in a city park, unless the city takes away all other donated monuments.”
The ACLJ’s petition argued: “When private speakers have the right to use government property to speak, there is a speech forum. But when, as here, the donor cedes and the government accepts ownership and control of something from a private party, that ‘something’ is no longer private property. It becomes government property. And if it is a message-bearing ‘something,’ any communication thenceforth is government speech, not private speech.”
It continued: “Accepting a monument for permanent display as the government’s own property does not require accepting other monuments in the name of content- or viewpoint-neutrality. Nor does the government’s acceptance of a donated monument require that a government park be turned into a cluttered junkyard of monuments contributed by all comers.
“In short, accepting a Statue of Liberty does not compel a government to accept a Statue of Tyranny,” the petition said.
The concept of allowing anything as a monument is “scary,” Frank Manion, of the ACLJ, told WND earlier. “The Minutemen in Massachusetts? We need a Redcoat. A George Washington statue? Why not George the 3rd. A Holocaust memorial? How about a Hitler memorial?”
Summum lauds the principles of “psychokinesis, correspondence, vibration, opposition, rhythm, cause and effect, and gender,” and promotes mummification of both people and pets.
The ACLJ said the Ten Commandments monuments are the real targets of the legal actions, because in many circumstances, cities or other governments likely would order such monuments removed, rather than order acceptance of others.
The ACLJ, which has worked on the case with the Thomas More Law Center, contends that the Constitution “does not empower private parties to force permanent displays into a park, crowding out the available physical space and trumping the government’s own vision” for the parks.
“In the Duchesne case, even an attorney for Summum admitted to the federal district court that its position could lead to bizarre results. Summum’s attorneys told the court that if a city park is required to display monuments contributed by all comers, the city park may well end up looking like a cemetery with many, many monuments,” the ACLJ said.
Under Summum’s theology, adherents believe the first set of stone tablets Moses received on Mt. Sinai contained its seven aphorisms, “made by a divine being.”
“The first set of stone tablets was not inscribed with the Ten Commandments. Rather, they contained aphorisms of a Higher Law that held very profound and deep meanings,” the organization’s website says.
The group believes Moses “had been initiated into an understanding of the inner, esoteric source” of those aphorisms, but when he “observed the immature behavior and attitude of the Israelites” he realized they could not understand them too.
“So Moses destroyed the stone tables and revealed the aphorisms to a select few.”
The ACLJ warned earlier: “In 1886, the United States government accepted from the people of France a donation of a 151-foot tall colossal statue called “Liberty Enlightening the World. Since that time, the government has displayed this Statue of Liberty in a traditional public forum in New York Harbor.
“For years, demonstrators with messages to deliver have assembled, handed out literature and otherwise expressed themselves at the site subject to certain regulations of the time, place and manner of their expression. But it probably never occurred to any such demonstrators that they enjoyed a constitutional right to insist that the government allow them to erect their own 151-foot tall statue or monument setting forth an alternative message to that conveyed by Lady Liberty,” the law firm warned.
“Under the flawed private speech jurisprudence of the panel in this case – there exists no principled basis upon which the government could turn down for permanent display on Liberty Island a donation of a ‘Statue of Tyranny,’ or, perhaps, a new copper colossus bearing the message ‘Pay No Attention to the Lady With the Torch – the Golden Door is Now Closed,’” the legal briefs argued.
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