The Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that the sect of Summum can’t force Pleasant Grove City, Utah to add a religious monument of their own to a public park that already has one of the Ten Commandments in it.
The difference, according to the justices, is that the Ten Commandments have a connection to the history of the community. Such a blatant subordination of individual rights to the religious heritage of the majority is itself disconcerting, as is the notion that the government can adopt any religious monument as its own.
Justice Alito justified that sentiment by claiming that when government accepts such a gift, it is no longer individual expression, but rather government speech. The logic behind Alito’s argument is troubling on constitutional grounds: If Pleasant Grove City is claiming the Ten Commandments statue as its own speech, how is it not violating the Establishment Clause?
Although the case was argued on the grounds of free speech, not the separation of church and state, today’s ruling has clear (and dangerous) implications for the latter. It could also have a marked impact on Salazar v. Buono, a case out of California that will determine whether or not a large cross honoring fallen soldiers can remain on public lands, while a Buddhist shrine was not allowed to be built nearby.
Stay tuned, America.