WASHINGTON–LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), specializing in constitutional law, said today it will ask the Supreme Court of the United States to take two Utah cases that could force local governments across the country to remove existing displays – including long-standing patriotic and historical displays – the result of local governments being compelled to post privately owned monuments or displays from any group about anything.
On August 24th, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit rejected a request for the full appeals court to rehear the cases involving challenges in Duchesne and Pleasant Grove, Utah where a three-judge panel earlier ruled that a group called Summum could erect its “Seven Aphorisms” monument in the city parks because the cities display monuments of the Ten Commandments which were donated decades ago by the Fraternal Order of Eagles.
“This is a very troubling decision that left standing could alter the landscape of America’s cities and towns by forcing local governments to remove long-standing patriotic, religious, and historical displays in order to comply with a twisted interpretation of the First Amendment,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ which is representing the two Utah cities. “This is a case that turns free speech and equal access on its head and ultimately would compel local governments to display privately-owned monuments of any kind – a move that is not only wrong but unconstitutional. This case has very serious ramifications for the entire nation. In addition to pressuring local and state governments to remove any vestige of our religious heritage – like the Ten Commandments – this flawed legal analysis would likely result in the removal of displays and monuments celebrating America’s culture and heritage. It’s a significant issue that must be addressed by the Supreme Court.”
Sekulow said the ACLJ is now preparing formal requests asking the Supreme Court to take the cases and said that petitions for writ of certiorari likely will be filed with the high court in the coming months.
In its brief (posted online at www.aclj.org) asking the 10th circuit to rehear the case, the ACLJ contended that unless the earlier decisions are overturned, cities and states will be forced to face a troubling choice – remove long-standing monuments – or permit any group to display any monument in public places – changing the landscape of our nation.
The brief notes that in 1886, the U.S. government accepted from the people of France a donation of a 151-foot tall colossal statue called “Liberty Enlightening the World.” Commonly known as the Statue of Liberty, the monument – a traditional public forum – has been the scene of a variety of demonstrations over the years. Under the flawed private speech analysis of the appeals court, the ACLJ brief notes that such demonstrators would actually have a constitutional right to erect their own 151-foot tall statue or monument with an alternative message to Lady Liberty.
The brief states: “. . . 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 only way the government could close the forum, and prevent its parks from being cluttered with monuments, would be to remove every donated monument it has ever erected,” the brief asserts. “Cities should not be forced to make such an absurd choice. Cities should be able to display in their parks whatever items in their possession they choose to display. . .”
The ACLJ represents the cities of Duchesne and Pleasant Grove.
Led by Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, the American Center for Law and Justice specializes in constitutional law and is based in Washington, D.C. The ACLJ is online at www.aclj.org.