Beliefnet
Lynn v. Sekulow

It was an hour of spirited, lively debate before the Supreme Court.  And, now that oral arguments have concluded and the case is in the hands of the Justices, I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will determine that the appeals court got it wrong and uphold the authority of Pleasant Grove City, Utah to determine what’s included in its park.

 

In presenting oral arguments on behalf of Pleasant Grove City, I was pleased that our arguments resonated with the Justices.

 

We have argued all along that the 10th Circuit decision, if left unchecked, would have sweeping ramifications nationwide – putting long-standing historic and patriotic displays and monuments across the country at risk.

 

One of the key illustrative arguments in our briefs put this issue into clear perspective:  “Accepting a Statue of Liberty does not compel a government to accept a Statue of Tyranny,” as we contended in our opening brief.

 

I was pleased to see Chief Justice Roberts amplify our argument when he pressed the attorney who represented the group Summum:  “You have a Statue of Liberty. Does that mean we have to have a Statue of Despotism?  Or do we have to put any president who wants to be on Mount Rushmore?”   That’s exactly what’s at stake in this case.

 

A transcript of the oral arguments is available here.

 

Historic monuments and plaques serve as the institutional memory of many communities and cities throughout the United States.  This is one of the ways that governments tell the story about the unfolding drama of the United States which includes the history and heritage of our nation.  It would be tragic if governments were faced with a choice of either removing these monuments or accepting all monuments, including those that not only do not reflect our history, but also hold in condemnation some of our greatest American heroes. 

 

Already there are groups demanding to put up memorials chastising our soldiers and saying they deserve what they got when they were wounded or killed.  This is one of the reasons the United States Government filed briefs on our side and participated with me in the oral argument.

 

When Pleasant Grove City accepted the donated monument of the Ten Commandments by the Fraternal Order of Eagles nearly 40 years ago, the city took ownership and control of the monument, making it government speech.  And, as government speech, the city government is free to select among the messages it wants to convey to its citizens.

 

It’s also clear that this case involves the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, not the Establishment Clause.  Even if the Establishment Clause were at issue, which it isn’t, the city’s acceptance of the Eagles’ monument is no more an endorsement of religion, as I told the Court, than is the depiction of Moses holding the Ten Commandments clearly visible in the frieze of the Supreme Court’s own chamber.  The fact is that the city government of Pleasant Grove hasn’t established anything by accepting the Ten Commandments monument.

 

I am hopeful that the high court will reverse the 10th Circuit.

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