Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This must be a law school problem

Did all of these characters graduate from law school? We're speaking, of course, of the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, who ruled unanimously on Wednesday that communities can refuse to allow a religious monument to be put up in a public park that already has other religious displays. In another decision that sacrifices serious legal considerations for what passes as practical ones, the court said the Utah city of Pleasant Grove could refuse to allow a monument from the Summun religious group in a park that had a Ten Commandments display. "It is hard to imagine how a public park could be opened up for the installation of permanent monuments by every person or group wishing to engage in that form of expression," the court said, in an opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, according to the Reuters international news service. The justices rejected an appellate court ruling that found the exclusion of the Summun monument violated free speech rights. Instead, they ruled that the case was not a free-speech question at all but one of practicality. If the government was required to be viewpoint-neutral, Alito said, parks all over the country would become littered with monuments or some of the country's most cherished monuments would have to removed. But the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State issued a statement after the ruling demanding exactly that -- that religious monuments be removed from public property under the principle of separation of church and state. “Government has no business erecting, maintaining or promoting religious symbols or codes,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the group's executive director. “The answer in this case is to remove the Ten Commandments from the public park, not compound the problem by adding more sectarian material.” The city's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, called the case "a landmark decision" that allows "government to express its views." But that's entirely the point that creates the constitutional violation. Hmm, maybe he didn't go to law school either.

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