Municipalities Must Reap What they Sow, Say Humanists
March 31, 2008
The American Humanist Association applauded the U.S. Supreme Court today for agreeing to hear Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, 07-665. This is a free speech and equal access case in which Summum, a religious group, seeks to display its aphorisms in the same public park where a Ten Commandments monument appears.
"Fair is fair," declared Mel Lipman, a constitutional law attorney and president of the American Humanist Association. "If Pleasant Grove City, Utah, keeps its Ten Commandments monument on the pretext of Supreme Court rulings that allow such religious expressions on public property when included with others, then Pleasant Grove City will have to allow others. On the other hand, if the city is willing to give up its Ten Commandments monument, then it can reject the Summum monument."
In court cases allowing Ten Commandments monuments and crèche displays on public property, the critical factor has always been that the monument or display must be sufficiently mixed with other elements. But attorneys for Pleasant Grove City argue, "Government bodies are now sitting targets for demands that they grant 'equal access' to whatever comparable monuments a given group wishes to have installed, be it Summum's Seven Aphorisms, an atheist group's Monument to Freethought or Rev. Fred Phelps's denunciations of homosexual persons."
"This is correct," stated American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt. "When the religious right fought hard for placing the Ten Commandments and crèche displays on public property, they forgot to be careful what they wished for. In our brief to the Supreme Court, the American Humanist Association warned against allowing religious displays on public property."
In 2004, in a Van Orden v. Perry amicus brief filed by the American Humanist Association on behalf of itself and over a dozen religious and secular organizations, it was pointed out that "Posting the Ten Commandments on public grounds constitutes government endorsement of certain religious sects to the exclusion of religious minorities and nontheists." This warned of the impossibility of accommodating every religious expression in every public forum, arguing against the very idea of government-sponsored religious displays.
"Now they must reap what they have sown," concluded Lipman. "Either they get their monuments at the price of letting all others in, or they give them up--they can't have it both ways."
In anticipation of a Supreme Court victory for Summum, the American Humanist Association is now pursuing the idea of placing stone monuments of Ted Turner's "Ten Voluntary Initiatives" in every public park that has a legal Ten Commandments monument. Turner received the Humanist of the Year Award from the American Humanist Association in 1990 and the organization has widely publicized the humanist principles stated in what has been nicknamed "The Ted Commandments."
The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.