Could the Statue of Liberty be joined by a Statue of Tyranny?
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering arguments in a case over whether a "Statue of Tyranny" eventually could be erected in New York Harbor to compete with the Statue of Liberty.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, today told the Supreme Court that it should preserve the sound precedent involving the "well-established distinction between government speech and private speech."
"We're hopeful that the Supreme Court will reject a twisted view of the First Amendment that could create havoc in America over how local, state and federal governments choose to memorialize significant events," he said.
"The basic question is whether a city gets to decide which permanent, unattended monuments, if any, to install on city property. The answer is 'Yes,'" he said. "The fact is that government speech means the government can control its message. For example, accepting a Statue of Liberty does not compel a government to accept a Statue of Tyranny."
In the case Pleasant Grove City vs. Summum, a lower court issued a ruling that could result in cities, counties and other governmental bodies being forced either to dismantle and remove myriad monuments, memorials and other displays, or else let anyone with an agenda install privately owned monuments and displays on public property.
If the precedent from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver is not overturned, court documents argue, there could even end up being a tribute to Adolf Hitler among a collection of World War II memorials.
The case stems from a claim from a Utah organization called Summum that it has the First Amendment right to demand erection of a monument to its seven "aphorisms" in the city of Pleasant Grove, Utah.
A federal district court declined to order the city to erect Summum's monument, but a three-judge federal appeals court panel in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling, opening the door wide for any organization to post virtually any type of monument on any public property for any reason.
The ACLJ then took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to review the arguments and make a decision.
"Summum's assertion of a right to force its monument upon the city has no legitimate basis in Supreme Court case law," Sekulow said earlier. "We're hopeful the high court will overturn the 10th Circuit's decision that ultimately would cause havoc for local governments."
The case began with the demand from Summum, which was founded in Salt Lake City in 1975. The group, which calls itself a church, sued Pleasant Grove in federal court, alleging that because the city had a donated Ten Commandments monument in a city park, the First Amendment required the city to accept and display a monument to Summum's seven aphorisms.
The aphorisms, according to the group's website, predate the Ten Commandments and include: The principles of psychokinesis, correspondence, vibration, opposition, rhythm, cause and effect, and gender.
The "church" claims the aphorisms were written on the original stone tablets given by God to Moses, which he broke when he saw the Israelites had manufactured a golden calf idol during his absence. The organization says the tablets were broken because Moses realized people couldn't understand the aphorisms, so he came down a second time with the Ten Commandments.
But the dispute over erecting a local monument has national consequences, the ACLJ said.
"The court of appeals' approach would make the government's display of the Statue of Liberty the speech of France, not the United States, entitling others to erect counter-monuments," the ACLJ said. "Likewise, the Vietnam, Korean, World War II, and upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr., monuments in the nation's capital would likely be deemed private speech, not government speech, entitling Summum and everyone else with a monument to occupy their own corner of the National Mall."
The ACLJ said 15 friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed on behalf of Pleasant Grove, including from representatives of 14 states and New York City.
Even organizations that typically oppose the ACLJ, including Americans United for Separation of Church and State and People for the American Way, supported the ACLJ's First Amendment free speech questions in the case.
The concept of allowing anything as a monument is "scary," the ACLJ's Frank Manion 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?"
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 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.